Climate News

Climate News Oct. 15, 2021

Seattle

The City Council is well into its annual budget process. Next week council members will introduce their amendments to the Mayor's proposed budget. Here's (partial) list of climate oriented items in the draft budget:

  • $14M for Green New Deal: unallocated GND Oversight board ($6.5M), home heating oil conversions for 125 low and middle income homeowners out of 1000 estimated low income homes ($1.7M this year, future funding to come from tax on oil, 1300 oil decommissions in 2020), Environmental Justice Fund grant program, Clean Buildings Accelerator to leverage money from state Clean Buildings Act, clean energy career training scholarships for 75-100 people.

  • Adds $8M Duwamish Valley investment: youth workforce development, clean electric heavy-duty vehicles to reduce diesel emissions as a step to a future zero emission zone in the Duwamish for heavy duty vehicle rebates: drayage trucks, school buses, and other fleets; green industrial lands (clean up), local business support and workforce development. Also includes urban tree canopy & stormwater improvements in the Duwamish Valley.

  • Continued funding for Equity & Environment Initiative, Environmental Justice Committee, Energy Benchmarking and Building Tune-Ups, citywide urban forestry.

  • Comprehensive Plan Major Update. They anticipate the first major update of the city's Urban Village strategy, and will be considering a wider range of alternatives. Need more money in order to compensate community for involvement. Regional Growth Center Subarea Planning: Downtown, Uptown, South Lake Union, University, Northgate, First Hill/Capitol Hill. ($150K for planning) . Planning for this will run parallel to Comprehensive Plan Update. Will need additional money in future years. This work meets requirement of PSRC.

  • SDOT will fund (and has started on) an Integrated Master Plan ($2.5M), that combines transit, ped, bike (and presumably automobiles) plans, and help inform the next transportation levy. It will develop a Climate Implementation Plan and enhance the Climate & Congestion impact calculator. This includes funding for purchasing transportation data, which should help in calculating transportation emissions. SDOT will fund a permanent Transportation Equity Board. The budget also contains money for an updated cost analysis of the Central Connector, the streetcar line to connect the South Lake Union streetcar with the First Hill/Capitol Hill streetcar that was paused in 2018.

There is one proposed amendment already in from Kshama Sawant proposing an increase to the payroll tax by $120 million for affordable housing and climate to backfill the money from JumpStart (payroll fund) that was used to fill in gaps for city services.

King County

Executive Dow Constantine transmitted his proposed mid-biennial budget, which contains a new $20 million for climate equity. The Climate Equity Community Task Force shaped the spending priorities, which include the following:

  • White Center Community Hub funding, which will have a significant solar array and provide holistic support to frontline communities disproportionately affected by climate change.

  • Grants to enhance green building components of affordable housing projects.

  • Parks solar lighting to improve safety, walkability, and gathering spaces in underinvested areas.

  • Environmental investments for income-qualified homes, including home energy retrofits and onsite sewage system repairs and replacements.

  • ADA pedestrian improvements in White Center to boost walkability and transit access.

  • Infrastructure to improve opportunities for BIPOC farmers to grow and harvest culturally relevant foods in King County.


County staff have finished work on the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy & Resiliency (C-PACER) program, and the Mobility and Environment Committee will have a hearing for it on Oct. 27.

K4C Elected Official Town Hall on Oct. 19. Click here to join. Leaders from the county and K4C cities will discuss K4C actions to build climate equity and climate resilience into long-term planning.


Puget Sound Regional Council

The Transportation Policy Board is working on a new regional transportation plan. They have done some initial outreach to find out what people want , they are now drafting a plan. The plan will be available for public comment Jan-Feb next year, and is expected to be adopted in May 2022. Below is a slide with what people say they want (in order: transit, more transit, roads, high speed rail, biike/ped trails, electric charging stations, ferries, deliveries, airplanes). Thanks to Ryan Packer for their reporting on this.


Washington State

The Department of Ecology has begun the rulemaking process for the Climate Commitment Act passed last year by the Legislature (also known as the Cap & Trade bill). To learn more about it, and see how you can get involved, you can visit's Ecology's website and sign up for a webinar & to be informed on upcoming public hearings. The bill leaves a lot up to Ecology, including what the cap should be, what the pricing of allowances should be, and how to treat offsets. Industry has a lot of incentive to bend the rules in their direction, so public involvement is going to be critical to make this bill a lever for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

WSDOT has released Part 2 of the Active Transportation Plan, and is seeking public feedback by 5pm on Oct. 29. Part 1 of the Active Transportation Plan was a real game-changer for the statewide debate on infrastructure for walking and rolling. Click here to respond.

A coalition has launched a new campaign, A Better Future Takes Transportation, to help Washington legislators pass a transformative transportation package. The convening partners are: the Amalgamated Transit Workers Local 587, Climate Solutions, Downtown on the Go!, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 191, the League of Women Voters, Move Redmond, the Nature Conservancy, Transportation Choices Coalition, United Autoworkers Local 4121 and the Washington Build Back Black Alliance. The principles include:

  • Fully fund our transit needs

  • Fully fund biking and walking infrastructure needs

  • Accelerate to electric

  • Prioritize highway preservation over expansion

  • Invest in stormwater infrastructure

  • Prioritize projects based on performance

The HEAL Act requires projects over $15 million have an environmental justice analysis. Lots of questions about how highway expansion programs can pass this.

Climate News Sept 28, 2021

Seattle

The Mayor presented her proposed budget for 2022 to City Council. The mayor's budget allocates $14M to addressing climate change through initiatives from the Green New Deal Oversight Board. Note that the Council's plan of allocating 10% of the JumpStart funding for this same purpose would result in $20M for low income building electrification. Moreover, some of the Mayor's $14M is Federal funds, which means rather than being additive, the Federal funds are just replacing. There is a competing proposal, the Solidarity Budget, that reduces money for police, but allocates $85M over three years for low income building electrification, as well as $100M for green transportation -- transit, biking, and rolling. See The Urbanist's article on the budget. Also, if you have time, Kevin Schofield from Seattle City Council Insight and and Omari Salisbury from Converge Media have put together an excellent series "Budget School" with videos with background information about how the city budget process works in Seattle.

The next step in the Budget is presentations from City departments to Council. The Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE)'s presentation is here (video not yet available). The Department of Transportation (SDOT)'s will be Friday, Oct. 1 at 9:30am. Presentations from other departments of interest have not yet been posted.

The Land Use Committee approved a name change for the Comprehensive Plan (CP) from "Single Family Zone" to "Neighborhood Residential". In addition, council heard a presentation on plans for community engagement on the upcoming major update to the Comprehensive Plan. SDOT is doing a new vision plan on a schedule that aligns with the Comprehensive Plan update, and the two efforts will coordinate engagement. The rough timeline for the Comprehensive Plan update is:

  • Fall 2021 - Spring 2022: Community Engagement Listen & Learn

  • Spring 2022 - Fall 2022: Community Engagement: Shaping the Plan (focus groups & community mtgs)

  • Winter 2022 - Fall 2023: Community Engagement: Review & Refine (includes open houses)

  • Draft available Q1 2023

  • Mayor's proposed Plan Q4 2023

  • Winter 2023 - Spring 2024: Community Engagement: Adopt & Look Ahead (public hearings)

  • Council adopts Plan Q2 2024

The Land Use Committee also heard the Quarterly Tree Report from Patty Boctor in OSE, as well as pubic comments on this topic from concerned residents. the City has completed an update to the Urban Forest Management Plan. Also a report on the Tree Protections , which the City has been gathering feedback on, with a report on the feedback expected in October or early November. The City is completing a SEPA review of the Tree Protections, which is expected to be complete at the end of the year. Once that is done, there will be a draft bill released which the public can review.

Sound Transit

The Northgate Link opens on Sat Oct 2! This brings three new stations into the network: U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. Riding the Link to downtown from Northgate will take 14 minutes – which is faster than taking the bus from Uptown.

Washington State

The Department of Ecology has begun the rulemaking process for the Climate Commitment Act passed last year by the Legislature (also known as the Cap & Trade bill). To learn more about it, and see how you can get involved, you can visit's Ecology's website and sign up for a webinar & to be informed on upcoming public hearings. The bill leaves a lot up to Ecology, including what the cap should be, what the pricing of allowances should be, and how to treat offsets. Industry has a lot of incentive to bend the rules in their direction, so public involvement is going to be critical to make this bill a lever for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Building Code Commission is considering Commercial Energy Code proposals for the 2023 energy code. Some have to do with requiring efficient electric heating and no fossil fuels for for heating. Gas companies are fighting hard against this and so are those for it. Shiftzero has been organizing support. Update: the proposals passed on a razor thin majority, and will be recommended for adoption by entire council, but will likely require lots more advocacy to make it through.

WSDOT has released Part 2 of the Active Transportation Plan, and is seeking public feedback by 5pm on Oct. 29. Part 1 of the Active Transportation Plan was a real game-changer for the statewide debate on infrastructure for walking and rolling. Click here to respond.

Futurewise is kicking off this year's Washington Can't Wait campaign. They have three big priorities:

  1. Pass HB 1099 to add a climate element to the Growth Management Act so that local jurisdictions make plans around climate change, both for mitigation and for resilience.

  2. Fully fund HB 1220 so local jurisdictions can afford the staff time for planning affordable housing in communities.

  3. Close the Growth Management Act's vesting loophole, to protect farmland, forest and critical habitat from sprawl by passing SB 5042.

Climate News Sept 19, 2021

Seattle

The Seattle School Board is finalizing a new Capital Levy for the Feb 2022 ballot, which we are advocating should include funds for building electrification. See here for background on this. The Board will be meeting on Weds, Sept. 23 at 4:15pm; you can sign up for public comment starting Monday Sept 20 at 8am, you can sign up online, or phone 206-252-0040 to get on the list.

Seattle City Light is seeking authorization from the City Council for a Renewable Plus program that would be targeted at large commercial customers who are trying to meet sustainability goals. This would enable City Light to bring on new wind/solar sources, and spur new renewable energy development in the region. The full council is scheduled to vote on this on Monday Sept. 20.

This coming week the Land Use Committee is expected to vote on amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, including renaming "single-family" zoning to "neighborhood residential".

The budget process will begin Sept. 27 and run through Nov. 22. The schedule is as follows:

  • Sept 27 – Mayor delivers proposed budget to the Council

  • Sept 29-Oct. 1 – Department presentations

  • Oct. 12 – public hearing

  • Oct 13-15 – Issue identification

  • Oct 26-28 – Proposed amendments

  • Nov 10 – public hearing

  • Nov. 12 – Budget Chair Mosqueda presents the Balancing Budget. Noontime deadline for budget amendments

  • Nov. 18-19 – Balancing Package & Amendments & public hearing

  • Nov 22 – Council adopts 2022 Budget

King County


King County released drafts of three important plans from Metro: the Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2021-2031 (goals, strategies, and performance measures), Service Guidelines (sets targets, evaluate performance, add/remove service), and Metro Connects (long-range plan). These were presented, video here, starts at 22:41. The short news is that the long range vision is for 70% growth with equity at the center, and that the County Council seems committed to coming up with the support and funding plan that will be required.

Climate News Sept 5, 2021

Seattle

SDOT got a number of grants. The West Seattle Bridge received 11.26M from INFRA grant (Federal funds), and $12M from the State. Contributions from King County and the Port of Seattle are pending. 15 Ave. S. update received $700K from the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), to be completed later this year and will include some pedestrian improvements (sidewalk repair, upgrade curb ramps and lights), and convert an existing bike lane to a protected bike lane. Planning project for Aurora N. received $1.5M from the State, and $500K match from the City. Scoping this fall, with outreach next spring, completion by fall 2023.

Green New Deal Oversight Committee appointments (marked with affiliated organization and who appointed (Mayor/City Council/GND): Katie Garrow (MLK Labor Council, union rep, Mayor), Steve Gelb (Emerald Cities Collaborative, workforce training rep, Mayor), Keith Weir (IBEW Local 46, labor rep, Mayor), Maria Batayola (Community Coalition for Environmental Justice, Beacon Hill Council, Mayor), Dennis Comer (Central Area Collaborative, EJ rep, Mayor), Tomas Alberto Madrigal (Duwamish River Community Coalition, Mayor), Tyler Valentine (Africatown Community Land Trust, youth rep, Mayor), Debolina Bannerjee (Puget Sound Sage, EJ rep, City Council), Matt Remle (Mazaska Talks, City Council), Jess Wallach (350 Seattle, City Council), Rachel Heaton (Mazaska Talks, tribal rep, City Council), Emily Myers (UAW 4121, labor rep, City Council), Andrea Ornelas (Laborers Local 242, labor rep, City Council), Deepa Sivarajan (Climate Solutions, City Council), Kristina Chu (Sunrise Seattle, youth rep, City Council). Some of these appointee's terms end on April 30, 2022, and others on April 30, 2023. The mayor will make 8 appointments, total, and the council will also make 8 appointments. Those 16 appointees will then appoint 3 more people to the board. The City Council has filled its spots (some awaiting confirmation), and the Mayor has one remaining open spot for a tribal rep that requires a nomination. The GND Oversight Board is tasked with making recommendations to the Mayor and the Council related to the Green New Deal, and monitoring progress in meeting goals. Jose Vasquez from the Office of Environment and Sustainability is the Green New Deal Advisor, and acts as a liaison between the Oversight Board and city government.

Route 40 redesign. Route 40 is one of Metro's highest ridership routes, and the improvements are an effort to speed up the buses and make the timing of them more reliable. The current plan calls for bus-only lanes in Westlake, bus improvements in Fremont, Ballard, and Greenwood, including more short stretches of bus-only lanes. There has been pushback on this from business dependent on freight, see this article from the Urbanist.

King County


King County released drafts of three important plans from Metro: the Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2021-2031 (goals, strategies, and performance measures), Service Guidelines (sets targets, evaluate performance, add/remove service), and Metro Connects (long-range plan).

Sound Transit

Released a draft of the Transit Development Plan 21-2026 and the 2020 Annual Report. The report includes ridership graphs as a percentage of pre-Covid levels for each of all the Sound Transit services. It also includes a description of the realignment. Sound Transit is still working to fund a (now much smaller) budget gap for all the projects in the planning phase. There are informal reports circulating that it is looking to partner with private companies to fill the funding gap.

Sound Transit also released the 2020 Sustainability Progress Report, which details things like ST switching to 100% clean electificity in 2020, amount of GHG emissions saved, etc.