Clean Energy Wins in Double Legislative Overtime

While much of the media attention of the state legislature session focused on the near government shutdown and the budget negotiations, the legacy of the 2013 Washington State legislative session may ultimately come down to the very first bill signed into law—Governor Inslee’s Climate Action Bill.

Alongside business and community leaders at the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Governor Inslee’s first bill signing ceremony launched the state on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow the clean energy economy.

The Climate Action Bill (HSB 5802), requested by Governor Inslee, will produce a plan for the state to meet its emissions reduction commitments. As climate change drives ocean acidification, reduces snowpack and feeds wildfires, moving swiftly to decarbonize the state’s economy is an economic imperative. The Governor’s Climate Action Bill is a strong response to perils of climate disruption and will provide a framework to unleash the jobs and investment that come from building a clean energy economy.

Washington Environmental Council

Washington Environmental Council

How much does this guy want climate and clean energy solutions? Lobby Day 2013

While Governor Inslee pushed for climate action, the legislature was decidedly less aggressive. Lawmakers were given multiple opportunities to invest in a prosperous, sustainable future but instead cozied up to oil lobbyists and listened to climate deniers. Of the four policies that made up the Environmental Priorities Coalition “Clean Energy Solutions” priority, only the Climate Action Bill was enacted. The other three policies, which would have created jobs, saved money and funded education, all failed:

  • The House was unable find votes for solar energy incentives (HB 1106) that would have opened up solar investment for families of all incomes, small business and non-profits.
  • Despite saving ratepayers millions of dollars a year and receiving bipartisan support in the House, a bill to update energy efficiency standards for electrical and plumbing appliances (HB 1017) wasn’t even given a vote in the Senate Energy and Environment committee.
  • The legislature decided not to close a tax loophole exploited almost entirely by the most profitable corporations on the planet – oil companies. Despite all the talk of needing to fund education and create jobs, $41 million dollars that could have been used to educate our children will instead continue to line oil company profits

WA Governor Jay Inslee signing the Climate Action Bill - SB 5802 - at the Bullitt Center, Seattle - April 2, 2013

Even after the window for legislative action closed, there were great advances to spur clean energy in the budget. The capital budget includes $92 million dollars in new clean energy programs. The hugely successful Jobs Now grants for public building energy-efficiency projects received $32 million. Though less than previous budgets, this allocation will create hundreds of jobs, save energy and save our schools money. The Clean Energy Fund is a $40 million investment to open up new capital for innovative and proven clean energy technologies across the state. In addition to these programs, the Legislature reinvested in the successful Energy Matchmakers program and theCommunity Energy-Efficiency Program.

It was a complicated session, fraught with leadership changes, two special sessions and tug-of-war budget negotiations. For five full months, voters raised their voices for clean energy, and champions in Olympia took the message to heart. The results: millions of dollars for clean energy investments and a dedicated effort to meet our states’ emissions reduction targets.

We look forward to working together next year and building on this success.

Author Bio

Jessica Finn Coven

former Washington State Director, Climate Solutions

Jessica Finn Coven is Director of the City of Seattle's Office of Sustainability & Environment.

Jessica previously served as the Washington State Director of Climate Solutions where her work focused on developing legislative and policy strategies to reduce global warming pollution and grow an equitable clean-energy economy in Washington State. Jessica first joined Climate Solutions in 2007 as a policy specialist and worked to further clean energy policy in Washington through the state’s Energy Independence Act, Climate Action and Green Jobs law and others.

Jessica also worked as the program director for the U.S. Climate Action Network. From 2002- 2005, she was a global warming campaigner for Greenpeace in Washington DC. She also spent several months working in Beijing as a policy advisor for Greenpeace China.

Jessica received her MA in economics and energy policy from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and her BA in Mandarin from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Jessica currently sits on the board of Washington Conservation Voters. She lives in Seattle with her husband, young son and old dog.