Legislative update on protecting our environment

Protecting our environment

solar, green, environment, energy

It can take years to develop and pass major reforms. That’s true when it comes to protecting our environment—but I believe those efforts are worth it, because all of our families need clean air, unpolluted water and a planet that’s habitable for generations to come.

Here’s a look at big environmental reforms we considered in the House of Representatives and Senate during the 2018 session.

Renewable energy

House Bill 2580 deals with renewable natural gas, also known as waste-to-energy. Renewable natural gas is the lowest-carbon fuel available and the most cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions.

This technology lets our state’s farmers, loggers, landfill operators and other businesses turn waste into energy.

The legislation provides for meaningful tax exemptions to encourage businesses to produce renewable natural gas.

I co-sponsored this legislation and and happy to report it passed the House 98-0, passed the Senate 47-1 and was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Clean fuels: A low-carbon fuel standard for Washington state

Clean fuels

There are several efforts on multiple fronts to reduce carbon pollution and mitigate the effects of climate change on our state’s people, communities and economy.

House Bill 2338 would direct the Washington State Department of Ecology to adopt a rule establishing a Clean Fuels Program (also known as a low carbon fuel standard) to limit the greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028.

Establishment of such a program would also lead to improvements in local air quality, as well as boost our clean energy economy. Clean fuel businesses, state agencies, public health, and environmental groups testified in favor of the measure.

This bill passed both the House Environment Committee and the House Transportation Committee, which is significant for legislation of this magnitude. It’s an issue that will certainly stay alive.

Updating Washington’s emissions reduction targets

HB 1144 aligns Washington state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals with those the United States committed to in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Those targets are based on the most up-to-date climate science, reflecting what would likely limit global temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius on average.

While the Trump Administration has since said it is withdrawing the United States from the Paris agreement, that doesn’t prevent individual states from setting their own emissions reduction goals.

Why is setting these targets important? Because climate change is already making our ocean waters more acidic, increasing the severity of wildfires and melting our mountain snowpack earlier. Climate change is a global problem, but climate action starts at home. With this bill, our state signals it will lead the way on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and do the responsible thing for the next generation of Washingtonians.

I voted for this legislation, which passed the House of Representatives but didn’t make it through the Senate.

Carbon tax

The public is ready for meaningful action on carbon pollution and mitigating the effects of climate change. Around the world, carbon-pricing efforts are moving forward.

Senate Bill 6203 would start a carbon tax in Washington state, using the power of the market to reduce carbon emissions. In the 2018 session, this legislation passed out of Senate committees but didn’t reach the House of Representatives for a vote.

Because of the Legislature’s inaction on this issue, there is currently an effort by environmental groups to bring the carbon fee before the voters this November.

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicle

More and more carmakers are manufacturing electric cars. They’re cheaper to operate and maintain and don’t emit any pollution, which is a major concern, especially in cities.

Air pollution is lowering life expectancy in some areas of our state and motor vehicles are the No. 1 source of that air pollution. Electric vehicles also save drivers from paying to fill up at the gas pump.

I wrote House Bill 2653 to encourage the use of electric vehicles by extending the state sales tax exemption on them until July 30, 2021.

While this bill passed the House of Representatives on a 86-12 vote, it didn’t pass the Senate during this short session. I’ll keep working on this issue.

Protecting our state from oil spills

Oil comes to our state in many ways, and is subject to a barrel tax that helps pay for our oil spill program. About 40 percent of oil comes to us via pipeline, which is not subjected to this tax.

Our state has one of the best oil spill programs in the country, but it has long been underfunded. The Salish Sea Protection Act (Senate Bill 6269) applies the state barrel tax to oil traveling by pipeline, so we can expand funding for oil spill prevention and response activities.

It includes important provisions around contingency planning for oil spills, including updating response plans, and recommendations for escort and rescue tugs for vessels carrying large quantities of oil across the Salish Sea.

This legislation passed the House and Senate and was signed into law.

Cleaner air

Port of Tacoma

I proposed three pieces of legislation to help clean the air we breathe, especially around busy ports.

House Bill 2601 deals with semis hauling shipping containers to high-volume ports like the one here in Tacoma and the Port of Seattle.These tend to be older rigs retired from long-haul service. They typically don’t meet modern air pollution standards. The proposed legislation requires these trucks to meet new emissions standard by Jan. 1 2019 and requires these ports to develop and submit a plan to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2020 on how to transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

While this didn’t pass in the 2018 session, the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma passed resolutions that required trucks to meet these standards by April 1st of this year. However, drivers who are in the process of complying (e.g. seeking financing for a new vehicle or upgrade, waiting for delivery on a truck, etc.) may obtain a temporary pass that allows access up through the end of the year. All trucks musty comply by January 1st of 2019.

House Bill 2602 directs the Department of Ecology to update rules on the level of toxic pollutants that can be emitted by new or modified sources. We need this legislation because technology and industry are constantly changing. Ecology needs the latest information and science to look at toxins and what we should do about them. HB 2602 passed out of committee but didn’t become law, so I’ll keep perfecting this legislation.

House Bill 2603 is aimed at improving air quality near ports. With so many ships, semis and other vehicles operating at our ports, it’s hard to pinpoint all the sources of pollution and what to do about them.

This legislation directs the Department of Ecology to work with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to do a study that actually distinguishes the emission sources of a toxic air pollutant. While this specific legislation didn’t become law, I managed to get funding in the state budget to do this study so we can find out the exact sources of pollution at our ports, the first step toward any solution.

Join us on May 8th for our Telephone Town Hall

Join me, my seatmate, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, and Senator Jeannie Darneille for our Telephone Town Hall on Tuesday, May 8th at 6pm. This is a great opportunity to make your voice heard without having to leave home.

You can either sign up to receive a call ahead of time by going to https://vekeo.com/whdc27 or you can call in the evening of the event by dialing 877-229-8493 and entering the pin number 116282.

I hope you can join us!

Thanks again for taking the time to read this.

What do you think? I’m interesting in hearing your thoughts, comments and ideas.

You can reach me by email, telephone, regular mail or the toll-free Hotline.

Sincerely yours,

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