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Washington Conservation Voters roll out 4-year environmental policy platform

The environmental advocacy organization, Washington Conservation Voters (WCV), has launched a campaign to push candidates and elected officials in Washington State to support ambitious environmental policies.

Titled Evergreen Future, the WCV campaign is centered around a 4-year policy platform designed to be a roadmap for protecting Washington State’s environment.

Heading into future election cycles, the platform will be central to WCV’s endorsement process, its legislative scorecard criteria, and the organization’s political spending. As of today, the platform has been endorsed by 58 2020 legislative candidates.

The Evergreen Future platform consists of four key component parts, each underlaid with a set of policy priorities.

Act on Climate

The first tenet of the platform outlines actionable solutions WCV supports for reducing pollution, expanding a “climate-smart” workforce, and achieving net zero emissions or beyond by 2050.

Reforms to the transportation sector feature prominently in this section of platform as transportation accounts for the lion’s share of Washington State’s greenhouse gas emissions.

To reduce pollution from transportation fuels, WCV endorses a Clean Fuel Standard. A Clean Fuel Standard bill, HB 1110, picked up steam during the 2020 legislative session.

After garnering support in the House, the bill faced stiffer opposition from Senate Democrats, including Sen. Steve Hobbs who chairs the Transportation Committee where the bill ultimately stalled.

The Act on Climate section of the platform also includes natural climate solutions. Policies of this nature include setting targets and increasing investments for carbon sequestration in forest, agricultural, and coastal lands, and requiring state agencies to use their authority to increase carbon storage in natural systems.

On top of pro-environment objectives, job creation is a prevalent theme in the platform. Transitioning away from fossil fuels to clean energy systems is cited as a major job creator. Additionally, WCV maintains that manufacturers would be supported by the adoption of a Buy Clean, Buy Fair policy to support public and private use of low-carbon materials

Clean Water and Healthy Forests

The second section of the Evergreen Future platform lays out a vision for addressing issues related to habitat destruction, industrial logging, water pollution, and more.

WCV outlined solutions it says will secure clean water and healthy forests for fish and wildlife while supporting tribal treaty rights and protecting resources reserved for treaties.

On improvements that can be made to the built environment, WCV calls for the modernization of infrastructure to reduce transportation system impacts on water, fish, and wildlife. The platform proposes the state do so by improving fish passage, culverts, and reducing toxic stormwater runoff.

In 2018, the Southern Resident Orca Task Force published a report which indicated that fish passage barriers such as impassable dams, tide gates and culverts have led to habitat loss for both salmon and forage fish. As a result, wildlife up the food chain, such as the Southern Resident Orca, are threatened.

The Washington State Department of Transportation began projects this week to remove five existing culverts in the Olympic Peninsula.

Policies related to land management and improving water quality are also included in this section of the platform.

To stop these issues before they start, WCV proposes the adoption of sustainable funding sources for state trust land beneficiaries that provide a reliable revenue source for rural communities. This approach, according to WCV’s explanation, will avoid pitting natural resource protection against essential services funding.

Environmental Justice and Public Health

Bridging the gap between environmental policy and social policy, the third section of the Evergreen Future platform provides WCV’s proposed solutions for working toward environmental justice by dealing with public health disparities.

Painting a clear portrait of existing disparities is central to the objectives set out in this section. WCV calls, first and foremost, for the state to prioritize data-driven assessments on health disparities.

As far as a specific policy, the platform calls on legislators to pass and implement the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, to “add an equity lens to all policies and include people in decision-making in culturally
appropriate ways to obtain solutions they want and need.”

The HEAL Act was reintroduced in the 2020 session but did not advance.

The environmental justice aims of the platform also extend to rural Washington, as the WCV calls for investment in rural economic development opportunities to keep economic gains local.

Hold Corporate Polluters Accountable

The final section of the Evergreen Future platform concerns accountability – corporate accountability to be specific.

For too long, corporate polluters have been able to game the system, degrading our environment for their own financial gain. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate polluters are pushing the federal government to roll back essential environmental protections. Elected officials have a responsibility to ensure that policy and funding solutions protect the communities they represent by holding polluters accountable and safeguarding public health, workers, and the environment,” reads the introduction to this section of the platform.

Rather than championing a solely punitive approach, the platform seeks to shore up companies that operate equitably.

For WCV, accountability is reflected in policies that support companies who empower workers to participate in decision-making, commit to local economic recovery, decarbonize their operations, and protect public health and the environment.

In order to meet the platform’s standards, however, companies would be required to ensure true recyclability, and use safer chemicals and materials. Companies of particular concern are those that make plastic, batteries, pharmaceuticals.

Political Context

To assess the concern among Washington residents with environmental issues, as well as their their support for additional environmental proposals, WCV commissioned polling from Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

In the results, WCV points to findings which showed that seven out of ten Washingtonians support the Evergreen Future platform, including 91% of Democrats and 63% of independents. Majorities among urban voters (77%), suburban voters (76%), small-town voters (62%), and rural voters (57%) were also borne out in the polling

About three out of five respondents in the same poll said they would be more likely to support a candidate for state legislature who supported the platform.

23% of total respondents opposed the platform, 15% of whom said they “strongly oppose” it.

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