Watch it by clicking here: SolutionaryRail.org/
(Move the scroll bar to start at the 6 minute mark to bypass the initial tech set up delay.)
Tom White, one of the lead authors of the Amtrak Cascades LRP, and Solutionary Rail Project Lead Bill Moyer, wrote this article about the future of rail in our State:
by Thomas White and Bill Moyer
Washington state has two potential tracks toward a 21st century rail future, with starkly different outcomes.
One provides higher speed, climate-friendly passenger service linking as many as 13 communities on the Cascadia corridor, with increased capacity for freight trains. It has been in development since 1991 and some elements have already been completed. It would provide clean, electrified Amtrak Cascades passenger service at up to 110mph along existing lines. The phased effort would rapidly create jobs, upgrade service and cut carbon pollution. It could be completed in a decade.
Tragically, this shovel-ready plan is being ignored while another flashy vision grabs the spotlight. That is the “ultra-high-speed rail” (UHSR) project proposed by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s administration and developed by WSP, a giant engineering firm. It offers a maximum of five stops along the route. To facilitate speeds up to 220mph, it would require an entirely new passenger-only corridor acquired through costly land acquisitions and the controversial use of eminent domain, with many environmental challenges. While science tells us we need to dramatically cut carbon pollution this decade, UHSR would take many years before the first track is put on the ground and decades more to completion — if it happens at all.
@Washingtonians: there's still time to reach out to State Legislators & ask that the Amtrak Cascades LRP be funded.Please, if you haven't done so yet, contact your two state Representatives AND your state Senator, asking for:
- State funding to update the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan
- Legislators to work with WSDOT to request that Federal Railroad Administration grant programs be generously funded by the federal government.
Send this letter ("Legislative Sponsors Needed") by email:
- Click to download the suggested text
- Copy and paste the subject line and text
- Send today to each of your State legislators
Let's do this, Washington!
While SB 5373 is not one of the environmental priorities identified at the Justice Summit, a number of people have expressed interest in the bill. The bill appears to be dead for the session, but there is some possibility of its revival in the budget negotiations. Information below provides some background and notes on a hearing on March 4, 2021. Provisions of the bill:
- It imposes a carbon pollution tax beginning January 1, 2022, equal to $25 per metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the sale or use of all fossil fuel within the state of Washington, except for the sale or use of electricity in Washington generated using fossil fuels.
- It increases the tax rate annually by inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, plus 5 percent beginning July 1, 2023.
- It establishes a ten-year climate finance program using carbon tax revenue and a bond program to reduce GHG emissions and increase the resilience of Washington's natural resources to the impacts of climate change
At this point in the legislative session, it would be a good idea to meet with your legislators to discuss pending legislation. Most legislators are scheduling town halls online, and you can find out when at the Washington Conservation Voter website. Some will let you ask questions beforehand, which is a good opportunity to discuss our legislative priorities. Here are some of the priorities we discussed in the Justice Summit.
- Environmental priorities: Fluorinated Gases, Clean Fuels, Growth Management Act, Building Electrification.
- Racial Justice priorities: Insurance fairness act, Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) act.
- Criminal Justice priorities: Legal Financial Obligations.
HB 1050 addresses the leakage of HFC (Hydrofluorocarbon), a greenhouse gas approximately 10,000 times as potent as CO2, although it is in much smaller concentrations (parts per trillion) than CO2 (parts per million). It was developed to replace CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) when it was discovered that CFCs depleted the ozone layer. Although better than CFCs for solving ozone depletion, HFCs were discovered to be highly potent GHGs. Provisions:
- Applies certain existing regulations addressing emissions of ozone depleting substances to HFCs.
- Directs the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to establish a refrigerant management program to address refrigerant emissions from large air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
- Requires Ecology to provide recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, 2021, regarding the design of a program to address the end-of-life management and disposal of refrigerants.
- Establishes a state purchasing and procurement preference for recycled refrigerants.
- Requires consideration of HFC emissions in mandatory utility conservation activities and in codes adopted by the State Building Code Council.
The environmental-explicit portion of the Growth Management Act (GMA) revision, HB 1099, regarding vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was introduced as part of the GMA suite of bills. This is one of the legislative priorities identified by participants in the Justice Summit.
Provisions of HB 1099 include, inter alia:
Transportation: Encourage efficient multimodal transportation systems that help achieve statewide targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and per capita vehicle miles traveled, and are based on regional priorities and coordinated with county and city comprehensive plans.
Housing: Encourage the availability of affordable housing to all economic segments of the population of this state, promote a variety of residential densities and housing types, and encourage preservation of existing housing stock.
Take Action: HB 1099 passed the House 56-41. (See below for notes on House committee hearing) It went next to the Senate Committee on Housing & Local Government for executive action (see below for March 16 hearing). It passed the Housing & Local Government committee and the Ways and Means, but was stopped in the Senate Transportation Committee. There is an opportunity to incorporate provisions of 1099 in another GMA bill, HB 1241, which has passed the house and is pending in the senate. You can find your state senator and send a message at https://futurewise.salsalabs.org/amendhb1241/index.html.
The building electrification bill, HB 1084, has been transformed into the Governor's Healthy Homes & Clean Buildings bill. Building electrification is one of the environmental justice legislative priorities identified at the Justice Summit. The following provisions are in the bill:
- Eliminate all gas hookups by 2030.
- Eliminate building code preemption of local building codes; state code becomes minimum but local governments can go beyond.
- Expand requirements in law for benchmarking, energy audits on 5 year cycle for small bldgs.
- Eliminate RCW (Revised Code WA) references that favor gas industry.
- Create surcharge on use of natural gas, money used to address Environmental Justice issues.
- State policy of encouraging electrification throughout state by transition planning (take bldgs. off gas gradually)
HB 1091 is the Clean Fuels Bill, reintroduced in the 2021-22 session after failing in 2020. It requires reductions in carbon emissions from transportation fuels. It is one of the legislative priorities identified at the Justice Summit. A public hearing was held on January 14 in the House Committee on Environment and Energy; see below for more details. The bill was approved by Environment and Energy and the Transportation Committee, and passed in the House by a vote of 52-46. It was approved by the Senate Environment committee and the Ways and Means Committee; it passed the Senate by a vote of 27-20. It is likely to be signed by Governor Inslee. Provisions of the bill:
- Directs the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to adopt rules establishing a Clean Fuels Program (CFP) to limit the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035.
- Directs Ecology to update, prior to 2032, CFP rules to further reduce GHG emissions from each unit of transportation fuel for each year through 2050, consistent with statutory state emission reduction limits.
- Excludes exported fuel, electricity, fuel used by vessels, railroad locomotives, and aircraft, and certain other categories of transportation fuel from the CFP's GHG emission intensity reduction requirements.
The Washington State Senate will be meeting virtually this year and next. In preparation for the session that begins in January, the Senate Environment Committee met virtually on December 1, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. The following topics were be discussed:
Three workshops from the 2020 General Assembly are now available online. They were presented under the title "Learning from Providence," based on the original location of the "live" General Assembly that had to be moved online. The three workshops are:
- Providence, Rhode Island, has an ambitious climate plan that explicitly enlists people of color in its planning and execution. The workship presents the plan and describes the involvement of frontline communities.
- Strengthen Local Climate Commitments is a program of the UU Ministry for Earth, and a number of local programs including King County in Washington are discussed. Bill McPherson is one of the presenters.
- The UU Ministry for Earth has a number of other programs described in a workshop on climate justice.
The 2020 General Assembly Ware Lecture, held online, featured remarks on the Green New Deal by Naomi Klein. She has authored books on the economy and climate change, including This Changes Everything, and attended the 2015 Convention of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which negotiated the Paris Agreement.
Klein's Ware Lecture noted that the COVID pandemic has changed many people's orientation to change, and opened possibilities for addressing climate, economic and racial issues. The Green New Deal is designed to address these issues on a multi-tasking basis, Klein notes, and would provide a framework for government policy in a post-COVID world.
Klein commends UUs for our "respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part," our Seventh Principle. Although she does not explicitly mention it, UUA has endorsed the Green New Deal and our actions will fulfill many of its goals.
The Ware Lecture by Naomi Klein can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/showcase/7462757/video/433421388
Four climate bills, HB 2311, HB 2248, HB 2518, and SB 5811 passed the 2020 legislature (see full descriptions by clicking on the bill number) and three have been signed by the governor. Two of the bills, HB 2311 (emissions limits) and SB 5811 (zero emissions vehicles) have deadlines for Washington state to reduce emissions in general and in transportation particularly. A third, HB 2518, mandates reductions in methane leakage, an area which is highly significant for climate change mitigation because methane is up to 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat. One bill passed but did not become law: HB 2248 eases some of the restrictions on the community solar program already in effect; it has some administrative costs to the government. HB 2248 passed the House and Senate but Governor Inslee did not sign it because the state budget has been severely impacted by the corona virus.
One bill, HB 1110, failed because of political maneuvering that ultimately proved to be futile (see description by clicking on the bill number). It would require fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon content of fuels through mixing biofuels with gasoline, and would promote electrification of vehicles. It was the highest priority of a coalition of environmental groups and others, including Washington biofuel companies. They now produce a lot of fuel for California, Oregon and British Columbia, all of whom have succeeded in instituting low carbon fuel standards. We need to join the "thin green line" of the West Coast, and the bill was introduced again this year as HB 1091 (see above for more details).
HB 2518 requires the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to increase oversight of measures undertaken by natural gas companies to reduce hazardous leaks and nonhazardous fugitive emissions from gas pipelines. It requires, beginning July 1, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter, each gas pipeline company to submit to the UTC a report on the environmental and economic performance of its gas pipeline system. It also requires the UTC to publish a report that aggregates data by gas company concerning gas leaks by August 1, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter. The House passed the bill on February 18 and the Senate passed it on March 5. It has been signed by the governor, and become law.
In 2008, Washington enacted legislation (RCW 70.235) that set a series of limits on the emission of greenhouse gases within the state: quote:
By 2020, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to 1990 levels;
By 2035, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to twenty-five percent below 1990 levels;
By 2050, the state will do its part to reach global climate stabilization levels by reducing overall emissions to fifty percent below 1990 levels, or seventy percent below the state's expected emissions that year. End quote.
In 2019, HB 2311 was introduced to modify these state greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets to
45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,
70 percent below 1990 levels by 2040, and
95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with the goal of net zero emissions. This would mean that any remaining emissions would be offset by sequestration.
The bill has passed the House and the Senate , and has been signed by the governor. It is one of the two priorities of environmental groups that passed this session. (The other is 5811, the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) bill. See separate post on this.)
On January 15, the Washington State Senate passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Bill 5811 and sent it to the House, where it passed on March 4. It has been signed by the governor. SB 5811 authorizes the Department of Ecology (DOE) to adopt California zero emission vehicle program regulations. Currently, California has a quota of 22% ZEVs by 2025, and there is a proposal to make the quota 100% by 2050.
For Background: In 2008, Washington enacted legislation (RCW 70.235) that set a series of limits on the emission of greenhouse gases within the state: quote:
- By 2020, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to 1990 levels;
- By 2035, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to twenty-five percent below 1990 levels;
- By 2050, the state will do its part to reach global climate stabilization levels by reducing overall emissions to fifty percent below 1990 levels, or seventy percent below the state's expected emissions that year. End quote.
- 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,
- 70 percent below 1990 levels by 2040, and
- 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with the goal of net zero emissions. This would mean that any remaining emissions would be offset by sequestration.
On January 16, 2020, the Washington State House Environment Committee held a hearing on HB 2248, the community solar bill. Most organizations supported the bill as a major contribution to Washington’s climate policy. A companion bill, SB 6223, had a hearing January 22 in the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology (see arguments below). HB 2248 passed the House and Senate but Governor Inslee did not sign it because the state budget has been severely impacted by the corona virus.
Rail Bite #5 - SR will cut Greenhouse Gas EmissionsOur Solutionary Rail Team has compiled Rail Bite 5 on "Solutionary Rail as a solution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions." Rail Bites are easy to digest morsels of info for busy policymakers, educating them on different aspects of electrified freight rail. Please share this with your elected officials and policymakers working on transportation, energy, and climate - and don't forget to SHARE on social media. Sign up to be a SR Ambassador and keep the momentum building!
The climate strikes of September 20, 2019 involved millions of people all over the world: at least 900 strikes in the U.S. and more than a dozen in Washington State. In Seattle, the largest strike in Washington involved more than 5000, including 2000 from Amazon who converged with those coming from Capitol Hill to city hall. Signs carried by marchers included "Our Children's Future," “If you don’t act like adults We will,” “Act now or swim later,” and “Not the hot girl summer I had in mind,” based on an internet meme. Speakers at city hall emphasized the urgency of the crisis and called for zero emissions by 2030. Just prior to the strike, CEO Jeff Bezos of Amazon said that the company would try to reach zero net emissions by 2040 but his employees demanded faster action.