Climate News

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Climate News 3.19.23


The Mayor issued an Executive Order on trees and is proposing a new ordinance to strengthen the City's existing Tree Ordinance, to support and grow Seattle's tree canopy, and address inequities so that all neighborhoods have good canopy coverage. This legislation is not the same as the proposed draft rules released in early 2022. It would do the following:

The Mayor also issued an Executive Order to address trees on public property. It will do the following:

Commute Survey results are in for 2022. Interesting year-over-year comparisons for center city show that work from home has gone up dramatically since the pandemic, and not gone down since then. Driving alone has stayed about the same, as have biking and rideshare. Transit is down sharply, and walking is also reduced. Commuting is markedly heavier Tues-Thurs, and less on Monday & Friday. Only 6% of commute drivers are driving EVs. Most trips that are not to work are done by car. People who live in apartments are more likely to use transit, bike, or walk to work, while people who live in detached houses are more likely to work from home or drive. Analysis also on Seattle Bike Blog.

Seattle City Light has a new program to help small businesses electrify their fleets. City Light will help advise businesses on charging infrastructure, including free fleet assessments. They will also offer rebates to businesses for rechargers, as well as offering qualifying environmental justice organizations utility-owned chargers.

Sound Transit

The Sound Transit Board is voting on preferred options for West Seattle and Ballard lines on March 23. A new idea thrown into the mix is that Executive Constantine has proposed that King County will pay $400 million if Sound Transit moves a station from the Union Station Hub at S. Jackson to the King County Administration Building at 4th Ave & James. Many transit advocates complain that this will delay many trips with poor transfers from one line to another, as well as making it difficult to connect from light rail to commuter rail or Amtrak. This article from The Urbanist explains the tradeoffs in more detail, also this one.


The initial report from the first Cap & Invest auction has been released. These are funds that come in as a result of the Climate Commitment Act passed last year. All the allowances were sold at $48.50, which is in the window what had been projected, or about $300M for this quarter. The total amount of revenue raised in the auction will be confirmed in a separate Washington Auction Public Proceeds Report, to be published March 28. Meanwhile, this is a good sign that budget items that get funded from the CCA budget will have revenue available. 

The House and Senate budget chairs are expected to release their proposed budgets next week.

Climate News 3.5.23


The City released a Tree Canopy Assessment Report that finds that Seattle lost .5% of its tree cover from 2016 to 2022, equivalent to a loss of 255 acres of trees. 45% of this loss came from City parks. The report concludes that “most trees in [neighborhood residential areas] were likely lost due to reasons other than development.” The report says the reasons for the losses “may include disease or hazard risk, storm events, or aging trees at the end of their lifespan. Trees are also removed to accommodate other uses (e.g., solar arrays, views, gardens, etc.).” See this article in Publicola.

Sound Transit

Seattle to Tacoma connection now pushed back to 2035, due to difficulties of mitigating the Fife floodplain. This would be a 3 year delay, and possibly a new alignment for two stations. Seattle Times article: Expert panel tells SoundTransit to be bolder to get light rail done. Sound Transit has also been discussing the possibility of doing a cut-and-cover tunnel downtown for the new West Seattle to Ballard line.


A coalition of building industry groups filed a lawsuit against the new State Building Energy Code, saying that the State Building Code Council exceeded its authority and that such a sweeping change should have been approved by the State Legislature rather than the State Building Code Council. These codes have also been challenged in the Legislature as well, most notably by SB 5057. The new energy codes are otherwise scheduled to take effect in July.

The UW Climate Impacts Group has updated its Climate Impacts Tool. This tool is meant for policy makers working on resilience against climate changes, and it projects possible future scenarios around heat, wildfires, flooding, sea level rise and other risks of climate change.

The State Legislature is working towards a deadline on Weds., March 8, by which time bills must have passed their House of Origin (or be necessary to implement the budget) in order to stay in consideration. There have been a lot of floor votes in the last week, and some anxious waiting to see what gets sent to the floor. Here's a partial list of bills that have passed the chamber of origin, for more climate bills see this table:

The State Legislature is also working on the budget. The CCA auctions completed, and we should have a preliminary assessment soon, and a more thorough report in a week or two. I've heard that the draft CCA budget was based on a price of about $21/ton, and that a recent auction in California got $28/ton.  If our auction comes in similar to California's there may be additional CCA funds over what the Governor put forward in the draft budget. An updated general revenue forecast is expected on March 20. On March 21, the Senate will release their draft budget, and the House will release a draft budget on March 22.

The Environmental Priorities Coalition is gathering a list of Legislative District Town Halls, and organizing environmentalists to turn out for the Town Halls. See here for a calendar of events.

Climate News 2.28.23


Greg Spotts, our new director of SDOT, was interviewed by Ryan Packer at a recent virtual meetup at the Urbanist. Among many other interesting tidbits: by far the majority of respondents to SDOT's engagement on the Transportation Plan favor rapid change over slow incremental change. Also, the Central Connector (streetcar to connect the First Hill streetcar to the SLUT) is still a possibility!

Also from SDOT: the Vision Zero top-to-bottom review was released, with 6 main recommendations to improve public safety.

Councilmember Strauss announced that he will be seeking reelection to District 6. District 6 has changed as a result of redistricting, and now includes a fair portion of Magnolia. So far, Jace Donnelly has filed, and Pete Hanning has also announced that he will be running. Of the 7 incumbents with open seats, so far Morales, Lewis, and Strauss are the only ones running, as Herbold, Juarez, Sawant, and Pedersen have announced they will not run. Moreover, Mosqueda is running for County Council, which could lead to an additional vacancy which would be filled by the new Council.

The Green New Deal Oversight Board heard a presentation on the proposed new Building Emissions Performance Standards legislation from Sandra Mallory at Seattle's Office of Sustainability and Environment. She said that the new legislation is being finalized now, and will undergo an environmental review before being submitted to Council "by June". She also said that the building emissions information that is reported to the City is posted publicly via the Open Data Portal. For what may be almost the first time, there were a number of people there to give public comment, most were from 350 Seattle asking for shorter timelines, more teeth in the enforcement, and no allowances for renewable natural gas. The Oversight Board is also working on a letter to the Mayor on these topics.


The Legislature on Friday hit the cutoff for when bills must have passed the fiscal committee in their house or origin in order to continue to be considered in this session; the exceptions are bills that are considered necessary to implement the budget. These bills then have another week and half until March 8 to be passed by their House of Origin. Here's a partial list of bills that made the cut-off, for a more complete list, including failed bills, see here.

The State is holding the first cap-and-trade auction today. This will provide a proof of concept on how accurate State's estimates for CCA revenue are, and thus will have a big effect on the State budget. As reported in Axios, the auctions are expected to generate billions in revenue, and by law must be spent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address environmental injustices. The State will announce the results in March.

Climate News 2.18.23


I-135 Social Housing Initiative passed!

The Office of Planning and Community Development released a report of the feedback they received at their One Seattle engagement meetings.  Overall, residents were calling for more affordable housing and infill development across the entire city. Some people were also calling for more tree canopy, and on the transportation front, people said there was a need for walkable neighborhoods that support many different forms of transportation. Next steps for the Comprehensive Plan update are the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement release in May.

Puget Sound Regional Council

Formal report of the Climate Analysis done for the Regional Transportation Plan.


This was the week of the first cutoff, where bills that haven't passed their policy committee in the house of origin are considered dead. The bills that are passed on are either referred directly to Rules, if they have no revenue or spending attached, or they have one additional week to get passed through the fiscal committee. Here's a (partial) list of bills that passed the policy committee in their house of origin:

For a fuller picture of the climate-related bills, see here

Climate News 2.4.23


SDOT received a $25.6 million grant from USDOT's Safe Streets and Roads for All program. This grant will be used to fund safety projects in the Rainier Valley, SODO, Downtown, and UDistrict neighborhoods. Proposed improvements include: new sidewalks, traffic calming tools such as speed cushions, flashing beacons to help people cross the street, ADA curb ramps and curb bump-outs, and protected bicycle lanes.

The Office of Sustainability and Environment released a video newsletter highlighting some of what they are up to, including grants they've announced, and referred to the Building Performance Standards as being one of "several policies we will be unveiling over the year" to reduce emissions from buildings. The grants totaled $750,000 and were given from the Environmental Justice Fund. Recipients include the Beacon Hill Council, Black Farmer's Collective, El Centro de la Raza, Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS), FEED Seven Generations, Rainier Avenue Radio, Restaurant 2 Garden, Somali Community Services of Seattle, Sound Generations, South Seattle Emerald, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Wa Na Wari, Wing Luke Memorial Foundation.

I-135, social housing, is on the Seattle Feb. ballot, and ballots are due by Feb 14.

And, this isn't strictly climate news, but here's a list of what we know about who is running this fall for City Council (culled from lots of articles, this one from Crosscut hits all districts):

One way or another, City Council will look very different next year. There is some talk of splitting the seats up for election into two chunks so fewer seats come up open each time, providing better continuity.

King County

King Conservation District Board positions are on the Feb. ballot. You can vote electronically, ballots are due by Feb 14. KCD is a special purpose district committed to helping people engage in stewardship and conservation of natural resources in King County.

Dave Upthegrove is the new Chair of the King County Council. He takes over from Claudia Balducci who has held the position for the past 3 years.

King County will have County Council seats up for election in 2023. Here's what I've gleaned so far.

Sound Transit

Sound Transit is doing another round of surveys on the West Seattle to Ballard line. They have questions on different parts of the whole line, but note that they haven't yet chosen an alignment for the Ballard link.


Once again, there is too much going on at the State level in the Legislative Session to report it all here. But a short summary would be that new bills are still being introduced, and we are also fast approaching the first cutoff date of Feb 17, by which bills must have passed their first policy committee in order to continue being considered in this Session. That means that bills that have not been scheduled for an executive session in their committee are in danger of being dropped. There is an exception for bills that impact the budget. We are beginning to see a lot of bills being voted on in committee, and some are even ready for floor votes. See here for a summary with a (fairly complete) set of environmental bills, updated with current statuses.

Climate News 1.22.23


The Department of Transportation is hosting two Open Houses on the Transportation Plan, where they will "share our "second draft" transportation network maps. These have been updated based on the STP proposed policy guidance and in response to input advocates provided at a workshop after Thanksgiving. The Open Houses will be open to the general public, so please spread the word with your friends and networks. Your feedback will help inform the maps that we show in the Draft Seattle Transportation Plan this Spring. You do not need to RSVP...  There will be no formal presentation. Feel free to stay for the full time, or come and go as you please. You can move between stations at your own pace to view maps, speak to SDOT staff, and provide comments...If you are unable to attend either of the Open Houses, you can comment on the December first draft maps that are currently on our Online Engagement Hub.

The Open Houses will be:

The Office of Planning and Community Development will hold an online community meeting to discuss the EIS Scoping for the Comprehensive Plan update on Jan 30, 6pm - 7:30pm. Link for the meeting:  

King County

The Regional Transportation Plan has a draft work plan for the year. It includes discussing the operator shortage that is significantly impacting service, but not until April.

Puget Sound Regional Council

The Transportation Policy Board again held hearings on how to close the emissions gap in 2030 between reductions from existing policies and reductions required to meet our reduction goal of 50% (slides here, full report here starting on pg. 24). This time they showed modeling results from combining multiple policies, and found that all three of these measures taken together would achieve the goal:

All these policies together, reduce emissions to meet the level of the goal. So this would require adherence to the growth strategy, the transit expansion, the State allowing the Region to apply a higher RUC (currently not allowed), the region applying the higher RUC and encouraging work from home and EV adoption.

They noted that improving transit service and frequency by itself didn't make a big difference in 2030, because land growth in urban centers isn't there yet; it does make a big difference in 2050. There was a question about when we are going to incorporate the results of Comp Plans that are currently under development. Sound cut out here, but I think this won't happen until the next RTP update (2026). Note that local jurisdictions should get information upfront about how changes to their Comp Plans affect the ability of the region to meet climate goals. (Jay Arnold - Kirkland). Could add this as a hybrid scenario to test.

There are also questions about co-benefits of these actions, and bringing those in. Co-benefits indicated so far include improved health outcomes and reduced traffic congestion.

This places heavy reliance on the RUC, but there's a major void in the RUC conversation on its importance in meeting climate goals, and local jurisdictions are not stepping up and advocating on it.

PSRC Executive Committee will take this up on Thursday, Jan 26 at 10am. Click here for a video link.


Much is going on at the State level in the Legislative Session, but it is too much to post here. See here for a summary with a (fairly complete) set of environmental bills, updated with current statuses.