Environment

WA bill tracker

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*Green icons = bill is moving forward; Yellow = delayed or facing hurdles; Red = failed

Environment

More than a dozen climate change proposals are expected to come before the Washington Legislature this session, many focused on building on the Legislature's passage last year of two major climate measures — a cap-and-trade program for industrial carbon emissions and a low-carbon fuel standard.

House Bill 1663 - Tracking and reducing emissions from landfills

Official bill information: House Bill 1663

Description of the bill: HB 1663 would require municipal and limited-purpose landfills with more than 450,000 tons of waste to track the amount of heat and methane the facility releases into the atmosphere. If the landfill does release a certain level of heat (more than 3,000,000 British thermal units per hour), the operator would need to install a gas collection and control system and ensure that methane concentration levels stay below 200 parts per million. Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Seattle, a cosponsor of the bill, noted to Crosscut that methane is the second most voluminous greenhouse gas in the state after carbon dioxide.

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 25, 2022.

House Bill 1099 - Adding climate targets to municipal planning

Official bill information: House Bill 1099

Description of the bill: This bill would require the state’s largest cities and counties to incorporate climate considerations into their urban planning processes. It was first introduced last year and passed the House, but stalled in the Senate’s transportation committee. It would mandate that a municipality’s comprehensive plans and development regulations “adapt to and mitigate the effects of a changing climate, support state greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements and state per capita vehicle miles traveled goals.” Washington’s most populous areas would be required to weigh climate impact in their land-use and shoreline plans. Affected areas would encompass the Puget Sound region, Spokane, Vancouver and the Yakima River Valley — 246 county and city governments in total, according to a legislative memo.

Status: One version passed the House, an amended version passed the Senate, and the two chambers failed to come to a consensus by the end of the session.

House Bill 1620 - Aid for governments to host shelter during extreme weather

Official bill information: House Bill 1620

Description of the bill: Introduced on the heels of the Pacific Northwest’s hottest recorded summer, HB 1620 would establish a grant program through the state’s Emergency Management Division to help reimburse local governments dealing with extreme weather. The funds can go toward building heating and cooling centers, transporting people to and from the centers, purchasing supplies and providing emergency temporary housing (i.e. a hotel or convention center). To be eligible, a municipality would have to show that it lacks enough local resources to meet the needs of the community, and prove that it spent the funds to help vulnerable populations. The bill’s list of sponsors includes both Democrats and Republicans.

Status: Stalled in the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1682 - Help for companies impacted by new emissions laws

Official bill information: House Bill 1682

Description of the bill: Aims to make it easier for heavy industrial polluters in Washington to compete against manufacturers in other places, despite the state’s stricter environmental regulations. The bill targets “emissions-intense and trade-exposed” industries, including manufacturers of metal, paper, chemicals, wood products, food, cement, aerospace equipment and electronics, as well as coal and petroleum refineries. It would allocate $50 million to provide breaks to eligible companies calculating their carbon emissions. Those “no cost allowances” would be scaled back gradually, shrinking down to zero by 2050. 

Status: Stalled in the House Rules Committee.

Senate Bill 5543 - Incentives to replace gas-powered mowers and leaf blowers

Official bill information: Senate Bill 5543

Description of the bill: SB 5543 would incentivize people to swap their gas and diesel-powered landscaping tools for electric models, offering a rebate program to help offset the cost of buying new equipment. Buyers of new electric equipment worth less than $300 would be eligible for a $100 rebate; buyers of equipment worth more than $300 would be eligible for a $200 rebate. An applicant would need to currently own and operate a working gasoline-powered or diesel-powered piece of landscaping equipment to retire upon their new purchase. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Americans used nearly 3 billion gallons of gasoline running lawn and garden equipment in 2018, equivalent to the annual energy use of more than 3 million homes.

Status: Stalled in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

 

House Bill 1924 - Extending a sales tax exemption for energy companies

Official bill information: House Bill 1924

Description of the bill: This bill would extend a tax exemption for sales of “hog fuel” — or wood waste produced by commercial forestry — to produce electricity, steam, heat, or biofuel. Under this bill, an existing tax exemption would expire in 2034 instead of 2024. The text of the bill states that the exemption is meant to “increase the ability of beneficiary facilities to provide at least 75 percent of their employees” with retirement and health insurance, though it doesn’t include any enforcement mechanism for the companies who would benefit.

Status: Stalled in the House Rules Committee.

Senate Bill 5697 - Increasing oversight of the state’s recycling program

Official bill information: Senate Bill 5697

Description of the bill: This bill would require manufacturers of recyclable products to join a “producer responsibility organization” registered with the state’s Department of Ecology. Starting in 2023, producers of plastic, paper, steel, aluminum and glass products would need to report the amount of product provided to consumers by weight each year. Producers would also be responsible for paying the administrative costs of operating the oversight program. Starting in 2028, the Department of Ecology may require producers to pay for more convenient curbside collection services, and by 2031, all paper and packaging products would need to be recyclable or compostable. The bill aims to shift responsibility for the state’s recycling program away from the individual consumer and toward companies.

Status: Stalled in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

 

Senate Bill 5492 - Recycling program for wind turbine blades

Official bill information: Senate Bill 5492

Description of the bill: A climate bill with bipartisan support that was introduced by Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview. Of the eight other cosponsors, seven are Democrats. The bill would mandate the creation of a “convenient, safe, and environmentally sound system for the recycling of wind turbine blades,” to be managed by the Washington Department of Ecology and financed by the turbine manufacturers. Most wind turbines, which weigh around 22,000 pounds apiece, end up in landfills after they’ve expired. The Department of Ecology’s plan would need to be drafted by 2023 and implemented by 2024.

Status: Stalled in the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology.