Environmental recap: Breakthrough progress, looking ahead

Those of us who care about protecting the environment have many reasons to be happy about the 2019 legislative session. This was the most productive session in decades for clean air, clean water, habitat, and charting a course to a cleaner future. We accomplished a lot of priorities around clean energy and climate action, protecting orcas and marine life, and waste reduction.

As chair of the House Environment & Energy Committee, I’m proud of all the hard work that went into passing these bills and excited about all that we got done.

I’m also motivated about the work that lies ahead. Because of the historic accomplishments of the 2019 session, it’s easy to think we’re all caught up when it comes to environmental legislation. We passed some key policies and made important investments this year, but we need to do much more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a safe level and protect our quality of life.

Among the important bills that didn’t make it all the way through the Legislature are my bill implementing a clean fuel standard for gasoline and diesel and legislation banning single-use plastic bags. Looking ahead, we need to tackle these issues by reducing emissions from transportation fuels and reducing plastic pollution in our waterways and landfills.

I’ll be working hard next session to achieve even more environmental progress for our state.


Climate action & clean energy: a breakthrough session

Earlier this week, the governor signed a package of clean energy bills into law that represent a big leap forward in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and charting our state’s course toward a clean energy future:

So long, super pollutants (HB 1112) – I sponsored this bill
Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are used as commercial and industrial refrigerants and foam-blowing agents. They are also super-polluting greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide. We’re phasing out HFCs in our state thanks to this bill, transitioning to safe and cost-effective alternatives that already exist.

100% Clean Electricity (SB 5116)
We’re transitioning to a clean energy future by requiring utilities to transition away from fossil fuel-generated electricity. With a preliminary “coal elimination” deadline of 2025, and a final “clean grid” deadline of 2045, Washington is firmly on a path to 100-percent clean energy from renewable and zero-emission sources like wind, solar, and hydropower.

Energy efficiency/clean buildings (HB 1257)
Buildings are the fastest-growing source of emissions in Washington as well as the sector in which emissions are cheapest to reduce. With this first-in-the-nation energy efficiency standard for large commercial buildings, we’ll retrofit older buildings and build even more efficient new ones, cutting carbon emissions quickly and economically while creating good-paying jobs.

Appliance efficiency (HB 1444)
New efficiency standards for certain appliances and design requirements for electric water heaters will reduce electricity and water use while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Clean transportation (HB 2042)
We’re transitioning to a zero-emissions transportation sector with incentives to make electric vehicles more accessible for consumers, helping utilities invest in vehicle charging stations and other infrastructure, and creating a new grant program to help transit agencies electrify their fleets.

Protecting orcas and clean water

A package of bills to help protect our endangered Southern Resident killer whales and the waters they call home was also signed into law this week:

Protecting our Salish Sea from oil spills (HB 1578)
We’re reducing threats to orcas and marine life by reinforcing Washington state’s Oil Spill Prevention Act and the Strengthening Oil Transportation Act, requiring tug escorts for small oil tankers and barges traveling across narrow straights within the San Juan Islands.

Increasing Chinook abundance (HB 1579) – I sponsored this bill
One of the biggest threats to continued survival of the Southern Resident killer whales is the ability to find enough food to survive and reproduce. We’re helping them by updating our state’s oldest environmental law – the hydraulic code – and giving it more teeth. This will help protect the critical habitat that orcas and the Chinook salmon they feed on need to survive.

Protecting orcas from marine vessels (SB 5577)
Reducing noise and disturbance from vessels will give orcas the space and quiet they need to find food and survive. We’re increasing the distance boats must stay from Southern Resident killer whales and adding a go-slow zone for boats viewing them.

Preventing toxic pollution (SB 5135)
Reducing exposure to toxic pollutants will help our critically endangered orca population and their prey, but it also helps all of us – particularly children and pregnant women. The state will help identify and remove pollution at its source before it enters our water supplies, food, homes, marine waters, and bodies.

Adding safe whale watching to boating education (SB 5918)
Requires state boating education to include information on new regulations, safe whale watching, and other actions boaters can take to protect the health of orcas.

Toxic cleanup and reducing stormwater pollution (SB 5993)
We increased and reformed the hazardous substances tax levied on petroleum products, generating hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up contaminated sites, prevent future pollution, and improve how we manage stormwater runoff that harms the health of Puget Sound.

Waste reduction & stewardship

We also took important steps this session to reduce what we send to the landfill, and increase what can be recycled, reused, and composted.

Food waste reduction (HB 1114)
We’re directing state agencies and those engaged in food production, distribution, sale, disposal and recovery to collaborate on a food waste reduction strategy, which will address both hunger and greenhouse gas emissions from food waste.

Revamping Washington’s recycling (HB 1543)
Through education and outreach, we’ll look for ways to reduce contamination in our recycling stream and develop new markets in Washington for recyclable materials.

Marketing the degradability of products (HB 1569)
Consumers shouldn’t be misled about the compostability or biodegradability of a product. By restricting the labeling and marketing of certain products like food packaging and food service ware, there will be less confusion and less plastic contamination of municipal composting programs.

Plastic packaging (SB 5397)
Plastic is filling our landfills – and oceans. We’re directing the state to study the management and disposal of plastic packaging and identify alternatives to achieve the goal of 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging and 20% recycled content in all plastic packaging sold in Washington by 2025.

Paint stewardship (HB 1652)
We’re keeping paint out of our landfills, soil, and water by requiring producers of architectural paint to participate in an approved stewardship program that recycles or otherwise safely disposes of paint.

Green tip of the week

Keeping your home energy efficient in the summer heat

The stretch of warm weather we’ve had this week feels like summer in May. When it’s warm outside, we like our homes to stay comfortable, and that can mean turning on the air conditioning (if you have it) or running fans. Here are a few tips to ensure wise energy use as the temperatures rise:

  • Make sure attics and crawlspaces are properly insulated so you keep the cool air in.
  • Keep windows closed if the air conditioning is on so the system doesn’t have to work so hard.
  • Keep blinds/curtains closed during the day, especially for windows in direct sunlight.
  • When you’re not home, turn the air conditioning off (or at least down). Contrary to popular belief, it is not more energy efficient to keep the system running 24/7 rather than turning it on and off.