2023: A New Focus for Climate Action in Washington

2023 marks a significant shift in climate policy, from a focus on passing major climate policies to now implementing these transformative laws. Washington has among the strongest policy frameworks to transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy, thanks to the Legislature’s passage of the Clean Energy Transformation Act, Clean Fuels Standard, and Climate Commitment Act (CCA), which will be bolstered by the Federal Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act. As the Legislature invests in clean energy generated by the CCA, it is critical to spend the dollars wisely to transition to a carbon-free future while reducing the cost burden on vulnerable communities.

[The 2023 Legislative session is over! Here's our wrapup on how Legislators succeeded in taking climate action—amd what work remains to be done]

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1. Invest in Climate Action

Washington’s transformative Climate Commitment Act goes into effect on January 1st, 2023 and its cap-and-invest program is expected to bring in billions of dollars for climate and clean energy. As the Legislature invests in climate action using new funds coming from the CCA, it is critical to spend dollars wisely and ensure an equitable transition to a carbon-free future.

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2. Zero-Emissions Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles

While greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles have remained steady, climate pollution from medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) vehicles - such as trucks, vans, and buses - has more than doubled since 1990. Diesel exhaust is responsible for 70% of the cancer risk from air pollution in Washington, so investments in this sector will also reduce toxic air pollution, which is largely concentrated in overburdened communities. Transitioning to zero-emissions MHD vehicles swiftly to meet our emissions targets requires a multi-pronged approach to reduce upfront costs and ensure adequate infrastructure. The Legislature should dedicate: $130 million towards a point-of-sale vehicle incentive program to mitigate upfront costs and incentivize sale of over 1,000 zero-emissions vehicles per year. $80 million in incentives for MHD charging infrastructure (e.g., at fleet depots) to facilitate large-scale conversion. $40 million in innovative demonstration projects to develop the market for earlier-stage applications, support zero-emissions vehicle deployment in sectors that require more assistance, and showcase Washington’s leadership.

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3. Clean Homes and Buildings

Washington’s building emissions are growing at a faster rate than any other source and have major implications for the health of those who work and live within them. To ensure equitable access to heat pumps and other electric appliances, the Legislature should provide incentives for low- and middle-income (LMI) households, schools in overburdened communities, and small businesses. To align with the State Energy Strategy, the electrification incentive program should be funded at $200 million for the 2023-2024 biennium and increase over time to meet our 2030 decarbonization goal. More specifically: $130 million to mitigate upfront costs of new electric appliance purchases and installation, with a tiered incentive structure to prioritize low-income households and ensure the most overburdened communities can benefit from this program. $70 million to fund a commercial rebate program, targeting schools in overburdened communities, minority-owned businesses, and buildings in low-income areas.

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4. Clean Energy Siting

Meeting our critical 95% greenhouse gas reduction target requires rapid development of clean energy. However, expansion of clean energy comes with a broad set of challenges: from the impact on wildlife, environment, and tribal resources of land-intensive energy sources like solar, to the potential for project delays during the permitting processes and environmental reviews. The Legislature should increase the state’s capacity to examine a growing number of clean energy project proposals, including additional funding and staffing for state agencies, the use of a programmatic environmental review across regions and technologies in the state, and a streamlined permitting application. These proposals should be paired with the creation of clean energy zones that identify least-conflict lands to minimize impact on the environment, communities, and tribal land while providing additional certainty to developers.

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5. Transportation Accessibility and Land Use Planning

Creating a clean and equitable transportation system requires a multifaceted approach that extends beyond electrification to reducing reliance on passenger vehicles and expanding transportation options. To do so, we need adequate housing near jobs, services, and transit. The Legislature should facilitate transit oriented development, end exclusionary zoning, and amend the Growth Management Act such that all jurisdictions must plan for climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Washington State Government

Washington’s largest utility takes a major step toward 100% clean electricity

by Kelly Hall on September 20, 2017

Puget Sound Energy announced a tentative agreement that will help them transition away from using dirty coal power in the next decade. 

On climate disruption, ending silence and heeding science

by Devon Downeysmith on September 19, 2017

Breaking through Climate Silence  In the

Hope under heavy skies

by Gregg Small on September 7, 2017

We're gaining momentum towards 100% clean energy. Here's how we're laying the groundwork, and what comes next.

Washington Senate should set aside partisanship, pass budget

by Vlad Gutman-Britten on July 18, 2017

For the first time in our history, Washington may fail to pass a capital construction budget. Billions of dollars of investments in clean energy,…

The world (mostly) unites for climate action

by Devon Downeysmith on July 11, 2017

G20 leaders recommit to the road through Paris--with the US government on the sidelines for now. More bad news for oil, more promising economic signs…

Thanks to Governor Inslee—and to you!

by Vlad Gutman-Britten on July 7, 2017

Good news: grassroots advocacy paid off; Governor Inslee rejected the state legislature’s proposal to subsidize a fossil fuel gas plant in Washington…

The WA state budget isn't for funding new fossil fuel projects

by Vlad Gutman-Britten on June 30, 2017

Tell the Governor now: Investing in new fossil gas is a recipe for climate disaster and runs counter to a vision of a 100% clean future that…

Cities and states tell world: We will always have Paris

by Seth Zuckerman on June 12, 2017

Coal kills more people annually than it employs, Nevada restores solar net-metering, Los Angeles tests subsidized electric-car-sharing in low-income…

Turning the wheel of revolution

by Gregg Small on June 6, 2017

Following Portland and Multnomah County, our region can and will lead the way towards 100% clean energy.

EVs’ future looks brighter; clean energy ‘unstoppable’

by Seth Zuckerman on May 30, 2017

Teardown of Chevy Bolt reveals it costs $4,600 less to manufacture than analysts had thought, climate action prevails at two shareholder meetings,…

Carbon pricing is on the table from C to shining sea

by Seth Zuckerman on May 15, 2017

Tesla starts taking orders for solar roofing, Green Party may hold balance of power over BC fossil projects, GOP fails to reverse Obama-era methane…

Clean energy transportation makes sense, but also dollars and cents

by Vlad Gutman-Britten on April 26, 2017

Climate advocates join business leaders to celebrate a sensible expansion of subsidies for low-carbon and zero-carbon driving options.

Trump order hits climate policies; states fight back

by Seth Zuckerman on April 3, 2017

Nuclear giant Westinghouse goes bankrupt, clean energy employs over twice as many Americans as fossil fuels, cheap Midwestern wind could idle 56 GW…

How's climate progress faring in Olympia?

by Vlad Gutman-Britten on March 29, 2017

It’s no secret that climate progress is having a rough week in Washington, D.C. Here in Washington State, our governor and others have pressed for…

World economy grows, carbon pollution doesn’t

by Seth Zuckerman on March 20, 2017

Shell sells off its stake in Canadian tar sands, US solar installations in 2016 nearly double the previous year, poll shows highest-ever level of…