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Senate Bill 5811 moves from Senate floor to House Environment & Energy Committee

More than a month after passing in the Senate, Senate Bill 5811 got its day in the House Environment & Energy Committee for a public hearing. 

The bill aims to reduce emissions by changing clean car program standards in the state. Specifically, the Department of Ecology (DOE) would be authorized to adopt California zero emission vehicle program regulations, which the state was restricted from adopting before. The bill also removes the requirement that DOE puts together an advisory group to review clean emissions rules before those rules are adopted and expands the type of vehicles required to meet California clean car standards to include medium-duty vehicles, among other provisions. 

According to the bill analysis, states can adopt fuel emissions standards as set by the federal government, or adopt California emissions standards, which include both low-emission and zero-emissions standards for passenger cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger cars. Washington adopted low-emission California standards in 2005, declining to adopt zero-emissions standards. The bill now would allow the Washington Department of Ecology to adopt those standards. 

“This standard has been shown to be very successful in other jurisdictions in which it has been implemented,” said Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-34th District) of the California zero-emissions standards. “California is an acute reason we’re seeing the acceleration of automakers developing new electric vehicles. The reason we’re adopting the California standards is because we can’t pre-empt the federal government, and this is the only thing we can do.”

Those who testified in support of the bill said the push to adopt zero-emission standards could help expand the number of electric vehicles that are manufactured and sold, as well as rolling out the necessary infrastructure to support a higher volume of them on the road. 

“In ushering in a future of clean vehicles, we need to ensure we’re paying attention to both sides,” said Reed Schuler, climate & sustainability senior policy advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee. “It’s not just manufacturers bringing cars in, but consumer education, access and building out that charging infrastructure so people have the confidence they need to drive anywhere they need to go.”

While there aren’t concrete numbers that reflect how much demand there is for electric vehicles, according to Schuler, the state’s energy strategy currently under development will take a look at the load demand forecast for clean vehicles in Washington. However, there is some support from communities that already see the impacts of the growing number of electric vehicles on the road and the accompanying infrastructure. 

“We feel this bill encourages the rollout of electric vehicles,” said Matthew Hepner, an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “We have found many good electrical jobs in the infrastructure for electric vehicles and charging points, as well as vehicle-to-grid technologies that can help our grid’s peak load demands.”

Hepner added more infrastructure jobs to support electric vehicles and charging stations have grown in recent years, not just in the state’s urban centers, but in rural communities, as well. 

“We’ve had more jobs in urban areas like Seattle and Tacoma, as well as in smaller cities and rural communities like Waterville, Omak and Chelan,” Hepner said. “I know. I literally installed these charging stations with my own two hands. This is a policy which the whole state may utilize.”