Washington State’s Green New Deal

The 2019 regular legislative session wraps up on Sunday.  While we have a long week ahead in passing budgets and acting on bills that were not subject to cutoff, I wanted to take a moment to update you on the gains we have made on clean energy and the environment.

When it comes to climate and clean energy, we have passed a series of bold new laws that essentially enact some of the tenets of the Green New Deal Congress is discussing.

clean energy

100% Clean Electricity by 2045– First, we have passed SB 5116 , committing Washington to 100% Clean Electricity by 2045.  It is not aspirational – it is real.  Plus, utilities companies are not opposing the plan – they are on board.  It is, in fact, transformational and the best 100% clean electricity law in the nation.  Beyond the  target, the bill requires utilities to eliminate any use of coal by 2025, ensures that low income communities have access to clean energy prosperity and incentives family wage clean energy jobs.

“It’s not just a clean energy bill. It also contains a raft of thoughtful, in some cases genuinely groundbreaking, structural changes to the way the state’s utilities do business… this is a very, very cool bill,” according to reporter David Roberts in this article.

Green Buildings– We also passed a bill I prime sponsored that sets a first in the nation energy performance standard for existing commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet. It will spur local energy efficiency jobs, lower energy bills for owners and tenants, expand EV infrastructure, incentivize renewable natural gas while requiring investment in efficiencies for our gas companies. Read more about our proposal here.

A ban on Hydroflorocarbons (HFC)– We passed a strong proposal, HB 1112, out of the House to ban HFCs in a large range of products and equipment, and I am glad the Senate reversed their position on amendments that would have slowed down the elimination of these super-pollutants. Safer alternatives to HFCs are available and comparable in cost.

Appliance standards– We’re also raising efficiency standards on 17 products, ranging from air compressors, commercial fryers and dishwashers, to faucets, showerheads and water coolers, among others. HB 1444 updates the state’s Efficiency Standard Code by requiring more private and commercial appliances and products in the state to reduce energy and water use.

Food Waste–Global greenhouse gas emissions from food waste rank third after the total emissions from China and the US. Think about that… our American food waste globally produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the total emissions of every country on earth but China and the U.S. HB 1114, which I introduced, establishes a goal of reducing food waste in the state by 50 percent by 2030, relative to 2015 levels. It also directs Department of Ecology to consult with the departments of Health and Agriculture to develop a wasted food reduction and food waste diversion plan by 2020.

All told, we will reach our greenhouse emission reduction goals currently in statute by 2035.  It’s Washington’s Green New Deal.

And, the good environment news doesn’t stop there. 

We raised the cap on net metering for solar (SB 5223), put a ban on fracking (SB 5145), and authorized utilities to incentive vehicle electrification (HB 1512).

Meanwhile, I had the companion bill to one of four pieces of legislation to help our stressed orcas. SB 5135 will protect kids and orcas from harmful toxic chemicals that show up in products like televisions, carpeting, shampoos, detergents, and pollute the waters and salmon that orcas rely on. The three additional bills in our orca protection package have also passed the legislature, including legislation to improve the safety of oil transportation through our waterways (HB 1578), ensure orcas have quiet habitats to communicate and find food (SB 5577), and protect Chinook salmon habitat (HB 1579).

We also tackled the issue of waste with two bills that passed the legislature, reducing plastic packaging (SB 5397) and finding new markets for our recycled resources (HB 1543). I am still hopeful that we will get the plastic bag ban (SB 5323) across the finish line. Thank you for taking the lead in calling for a reduction of plastic waste long before the legislature took up the issue in earnest.

We have a lot of work ahead of us this week to finalize our state budgets to increase affordable housing, reduce homelessness, improve education funding, invest in behavioral health solutions, reduce health care costs, innovate int he clean energy sector, invest in our state employees, protect our natural resources and parks, and to address many other important priorities.

Thanks for taking the time to read this update,