Both Washington state legislative bodies pass landmark bills to tackle climate change
Updated: Apr 27, 2021
A landmark package of environmental bills has cleared both chambers of the Legislature and puts the state on a path to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and air pollution.
“Today we take aim at the moral, economic and social issue of our time—climate change,” said Reuven Carlyle, a state senator from Seattle, chair of Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, and sponsor of the Climate Commitment Act. “Collectively, this environmental package represents an extraordinary step forward for the future of our grandchildren’s grandchildren that positions Washington as a national thought leader in the transition to a clean energy economy.”
The Climate Commitment Act, or Senate Bill 5126, establishes a cap-and-invest system to steadily reduce carbon emissions within a market-based framework that will empower Washington to build a 21st Century, net-zero emissions economy. This bill passed the House 54-43 April 23 and passed the Senate 27-22 April 24.
A second major climate bill, House Bill 1091, was sponsored by state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by lowering the carbon intensity of fuels used in transportation. This bill passed the Senate April 25 on a 26-23 vote before passing the House on a 54-43 vote.
House Bill 1091 requires fuels to meet a phased-in 20 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2038, compared to 2017 levels, beginning no later than Jan. 1, 2023. The bill ties GHG reductions beyond 10 percent starting in 2028 with additional in-state biofuel production and feedstock supply.
The two measures, introduced in partnership between Carlyle, Fitzgibbon and Gov. Jay Inslee, are built to meet state goals for carbon reduction as well as international goals set by the Paris Accords. “This puts us on track to meet the state’s science-based, statutory limits on emissions,” Carlyle said.
A third bill, HB 1050, also sponsored by Fitzgibbon, authorizes the Department of Ecology to limit the amount of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in new stationary air conditioning and stationary refrigeration, and applies certain existing regulations addressing emissions of ozone-depleting substances to HFCs.
All three policies fit holistically with another bill, the HEAL Act, to embed environmental justice principles within state agencies, improve air quality, and reduce GHG emissions. Sponsored by state Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, SB 5141 will reduce the disproportionate environmental impacts experienced by vulnerable populations and marginalized communities by implementing the recommendations of the environmental justice task force. This bill passed the Senate April 23, having already passed the House earlier this month.
Two more bills advance the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). HB 1287, sponsored by state Rep. Alex Ramel, establishes a comprehensive vision for a zero-emissions future. SB 5192, sponsored by Sen. Mona Das, creates a regulatory framework for the charging station infrastructure to support widespread use of EVs.
In addition to comprehensive climate action, SB 5022, also sponsored by Das, will give Washington state the strongest recycling policy in the nation. It requires increased recycled content in plastic beverage containers, trash bags and bottles for household and personal care products; bans expanded polystyrene food ware, recreational coolers and packing peanuts; and requires that utensils, straws, cup lids and condiments be provided to customers only on request.
“We’ve known for some time that we’ve needed to undertake robust measures to reverse our self-destructive environmental trajectory, and these bills do that,” Carlyle said. “From placing a firm cap on carbon emissions to building a more circular economy, our work this year meaningfully moved the state forward on responsible, data-driven environmental policy that elevates quality of life and encourages green, 21st-century jobs. Just as importantly, these measures are crafted to achieve historic environmental progress in ways that address longstanding economic and racial inequities.”