Washington’s short legislative session is more than half completed—and we’re cautiously optimistic that this session could include big wins for the environment and our climate. But don’t pop the bubbly just yet! Efforts on behalf of solar power, electric vehicles, and weaning our state from coal power could still flounder in the coming weeks; and there are more opportunities for climate trouble in the budget and legislative process.
At this point in their calendar, lawmakers have begun to focus on a shrinking list of bills that remain alive. Under the legislature’s self-imposed rules, bills must hit certain milestones by key deadlines or else become ineligible (mostly) for passage this year.
Last week was the so-called “House of Origin” cut-off, meaning that bills passed neither by the House nor by the Senate are done for the year. So far, it’s been good news for climate advocates—but we have a lot of hard work left to go. Here are a few issues we are tracking attentively:
Solar incentives: After four years of work, a solar incentive package was passed by the House of Representatives 77 to 20. The bill will protect existing solar customers while ensuring that we continue supporting the growth of a fledgling industry that supports thousands of jobs in Washington.
Electric vehicles incentives: The transportation sector is the largest emitter in Washington, which is why it was so exciting that the House of Representatives argued this year not about whether we should incentivize electric vehicles, but about what was the best way to do so. Democratic Representative Fey and Republican Representative Orcutt led the way, with Republican Representative Condotta and Democrat Reykdal proposing an alternative solution. An electric vehicle incentive bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate on a vote of 65-32.
Coal power: After a spirited debate in the Senate, a bipartisan bill that prepares for closure of two of the dirtiest coal-fired electric generators in the country passed on a vote of 42-7. The bill was sheparded by Senators Ericksen and Ranker, and unlike a similar version from last year, does not allow the purchase of additional coal power. Puget Sound Energy, the partial owner of the plants in Colstrip, MT, has committed to closing and cleaning-up the site where the plants are located while not laying off any employees. When these generators close, it will reduce emissions by 5 million tons of carbon annually.
Eliminating the Clean Air Rule: A bill that would have stripped the Governor’s authority to implement the Clean Air Rule, a comprehensive cap on carbon emissions in Washington, failed to come up for a vote in the Senate this week. This is just one avenue of attack against this crucial rule, but the bill dying is good news.
Undermining the Clean Power Plan: A bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives that would have limited the state’s compliance options under the federal Clean Power Plan and prevented transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewables also failed to come up for a vote.
Three weeks left to go! We’ll look forward to providing additional updates as this year’s legislative session wraps up.