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2020 session sees some environmental progress, but Senate fails to pass two major climate bills

Washington’s Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), that represents more than 20 statewide organizations, noted some environmental progress in 2020. Two of four 2020 EPC Priorities passed this session: a statewide ban on plastic bags and new science-based climate pollution limits. But, major climate action stalled in the Senate yet again, marking the second time in as many years that the House has passed a clean fuel standard with the Senate failing to take action.

We do not get to take a year off from climate change. If we aren’t working to solve this crisis year after year, we are losing the fight,” said Alyssa Macy CEO, of Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. “The Senate cannot be the place where climate action goes to die.”

Climate delay is just as bad as denial. This session was a comprehensive failure to act on climate,” said Vlad Gutman-Britten, Climate Solutions State Director. “Two thirds of Washington voters support a clean fuel standard yet instead of listening to the people, Senate Democrats sided with the oil industry and handed veto power to a small minority in their caucus. Our Senate just kicked the can on climate towards a cliff.”

Climate bills that failed to pass

Clean Fuel Standard (HB 1110, Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D) – West Seattle, Senator Reuven Carlyle (D) – Magnolia). The Senate companion to HB 1110 was SB 5412, sponsored by Senator Rebecca Saldaña (D).

  • Transportation is responsible for nearly half of our climate and air pollution in Washington, and our state is the only state on the west coast without a clean fuel standard. HB 1110 would have required fuel producers and importers to reduce pollution from the fuels that power our transportation system and provide more options to fuel vehicles (such as electricity and local renewable biofuels). Crosscut/Elway poll showed 66% support across Washington for Clean Fuel Standard. Unfortunately, the bill failed to pass out of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Clean Air Authority (HB 2957, Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D) – West Seattle, Senator Saldaña (D) – South Seattle). A similar bill, SB 6628, was introduced by Senator Carlyle (D).

  • In response to a January Supreme Court decision, this bill would have clarified that the state has authority to adopt, implement, and enforce clean air standards for indirect sources that reduce emissions associated with buildings and transportation.

What did Pass

Reduce Plastic Pollution (SB 5323, Senator Mona Das (D) – Kent and companion bill sponsor Representative Strom Peterson, (D) – Edmonds)

  • This landmark bill eliminates single-use, plastic carry-out bags. Washington state has become the ninth state in the nation to pass a statewide policy addressing this chronic source of plastic pollution via the legislature. The bill passed with strong bi-partisan support by a vote of 67-29 in the House, and a concurrence vote of 35-15 in the Senate.
  • “We are happy that all the different stakeholders came together in the end, creating a strong bill,” said Heather Trim, Executive Director of Zero Waste Washington. “The new bag bill builds on over 10 years of efforts by plastics advocates at the local and state level.”

Climate Pollution Limits (HB 2311, Representative Vandana Slatter (D) – Redmond, and companion bill  sponsor Senator Mona Das (D) – Kent)

  • Climate action requires carbon reductions across the board and deep investments in healthier natural landscapes—shorelines, forests, and farms. HB2311 updates the state’s greenhouse gas limits to reflect current science and investing in nature-based solutions like trees and soils to capture excess carbon.

Healthy Habitat, Healthy Orcas – budget includes funding for plan to implement Net Ecological Gain

  • After decades of development-related habitat loss, it is clear the state’s policy of No Net Loss simply isn’t working. Salmon runs are down 90% and we continue to lose 800 acres a year of vital forest land and habitat in the Puget Sound region alone. Net ecological gain would protect and restore habitat across the state and is a key Orca Task Force recommendation to restore salmon runs and protect our gravely threatened orca populations.
  • The legislature continued to implement other task force recommendations, including an orca coordinator position, reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants discharging to Puget Sound, and increased enforcement for habitat and vessels.

Other environmental wins

Zero Emission Vehicles (SB 5811, Senator Joe Nguyen (D) – White Center)

  • Directs Ecology to adopt California’s ZEV program regulations and expanding that requirement to include medium duty vehicles. This law expands the Clean Car law, a previous Environmental Priority Coalition priority, to now include ZEV.

Community Solar (HB 2248, Representative Beth Doglio (D) – Olympia)

  • Expands equitable access and investments of renewable energy through community solar projects

C-Pacer – (HB 2405, Representative Davina Duerr (D) – Bothell)

  • Spurs building efficiency and resiliency through access to low cost loans

$50 million for climate resiliency

This guest contribution was provided by the Environmental Priorities Coalition.