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Climate News

Seattle

The Mayor is proposing rolling back the pro-climate provisions in the commercial building Energy Code. The new commercial building codes were adopted in 2021, and are currently scheduled to come into effect on Sept. 30. But the Construction Codes Advisory Board (CCAB) is meeting on Thursday to consider substantial changes. From the meeting announcement: "The mayor’s office is evaluating striking Seattle amendments new this code cycle that make the 2021 SEC requirements for new construction more stringent than the 2021 WA State Energy Code." It is important that Seattle continue leading on the commercial building codes, to show the rest of the state what is possible. Where Seattle leads, other jurisdictions (King County, Shoreline, other cities) often follow. Also, it's hard to see how we can reduce emissions without having more stringent standards for new buildings. The CCAB will meet on Thursday May 16, 12-2pm, in a hybrid meeting. There will be an opportunity for public comment at the meeting (meeting link is here), and comments can also be emailed to jenifer.gilliland@seattle.gov.

The public comment period for the Comprehensive Plan has been extended to Monday, May 20 at 5pm. You can provide feedback via the Engagement Hub or send email to OneSeattleCompPlan@seattle.gov.

The Council Committee of the Transportation Levy met for the first time on Tuesday, and heard reports from the Move Seattle Oversight Levy Board, as well as SDOT. They also heard public comment from about 25 different people all asking for a bigger levy, with more funding for sidewalks, transit, bikes, and electrification. Councilmembers are most likely now considering amendments. Here's the schedule of meetings on the Levy:

Seattle voters are very positive on transportation, according to a new poll on the Transportation Levy from the Northwest Progressive Institute. Voters want improvements in bridges, roads, bike lanes, transit, and sidewalks, and they are willing to vote in favor of a levy bigger than what the Mayor has proposed. The Mayor has proposed a $1.45B Levy; respondents to the poll prefer either a $1.7B or even more of them prefer a $1.9B Levy with more improvements. "Go Big" seems to be their message.

Elsewhere

The Biden administration is proposing new more efficient energy standards for appliances (nytimes, paywall). Republicans in Congress are complaining that they are outlawing gas stoves and other appliances, but all they are doing is introducing new standards to make them more efficient, so they will be more expensive upfront, but use less energy and hence reduce utility bills & emissions over time.

Vermont is considering a new law to make big oil companies pay for climate damages (The Guardian). The program would be similar to the Superfund program. Last July, Vermont experienced severe flooding, causing about $1B in damages. The bill would set up a fund to pay for "climate-related impacts to Vermont’s public health, biodiversity, economic development and other damages". Vermont has a Republican governor, but supporters think that they have enough votes to override a veto.

Climate News 5.4.24

Seattle

City Council will hear the new proposed Transportation Levy on Tuesday morning at 9:30 am. The Mayor released an updated draft Levy yesterday. The new proposal is slightly larger, now $1.45 billion. It has small increases in funding for walking, biking, and transit over the previous draft. It also proposes building all the new sidewalks in the first 5 years, and spending $5 million on an investigation into raising more money in the future focused on sidewalks and bridges. The new levy is likely to cost the average homewoner $41/month. Publicola notes: "Although the new levy will be larger than the Move Seattle voters passed in 2015, it will still spend less, after adjusting for inflation, on pedestrian and transit improvements than previous levies, according to an analysis by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ Ethan Campbell."

The City Council unanimously approved the Seattle Transportation Plan.  The Transportation Levy is expected to come before the Council next week.

The City Council voted 7-2 to reject the Equitable Housing Initiative. The proposal would have allowed non-profits and developers partnering with non-profits to build as many as 34 larger apartment buildings, if those buildings included affordable housing or social services, as part of a pilot project. Affordable housing developers argued that the pilot project would make these buildings "much more financially feasible". Tree advocates testified that there would not be enough space for trees. Councilmembers who voted no had a variety of reasons, but many said that they felt that the rents should be lower.

Seattle fell slightly in the ACEE's Clean Energy Scorecard this year, and was rated "not on track" for reaching our community goal of 58% reduction in GHG by 2030. To be fair, none of the cities with similar climate goals are on track, except for San Francisco, which is on track for 40% reduction by 2025 compared to a 1990 baseline. The fact sheet for Seattle is here, policy list here. The report notes "Seattle was one of the strongest performers among its peers, but it fell in the rankings from the previous scorecard. Seattle performed best in the local government operations category and has the most room to improve in the buildings category." The report includes data up to August 2023, so it does not include the new Buildings Emissions Performance Standards. Seattle was ranked #3 overall; #1 for number of actions, but #7 on energy equity policies, #6 on smart growth. 

Seattle's Office of Sustainability and Environment released a status report on the Transportation Electrification Blueprint, detailing the progress of various initiatives related to vehicle electrification. Apparently there is now inter-city electric bus service to Bellingham. And it looks like lots of work has been done on last mile freight delivery, including an e-bike program they are working on, and better management of curb space.

State

The State is preparing an EV rebate program for electric vehicles, and will pay up to $9000 for 3 or more year lease of a new vehicle, or $2500 for a purchase or lease of a used EV. The rebates are for people who make 300% or below of the Federal poverty line, and are intended for people who do not usually purchase new vehicles. This new rebate can be stacked on top of the Federal rebate from the Inflation Reduction Act,  Commerce notes that this can "make leasing an EV as low as $56 a month, with at least six models available for less than $150 a month." Coltura says that "outreach will prioritize super-commuters who drive more than 19,000 miles a year for work." WSDOT is also working on a rebate plan for e-bikes, based on $5 million in funding, according to The Urbanist.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced $7 billion in grants as part of its Solar for All campaign under the Inflation Reduction Act, and the State was awarded $156 million to pay for rooftop solar for single family, affordable muti-family, community solar, and tribal projects. Under EPA rules, funding is for low-income and disadvantaged communities. This money will be added to the $100 million the State set aside from the Climate Committment Act revenues for solar projects, much of it has already been awarded,

Gubernatorial candidates are backing a plan to buy diesel ferries in place (or in addition to?) hybrid ferries, according to the Seattle Times. Inslee remains committed to hybrid ferries, but candidates for Governor including democrat Bob Ferguson have signalled a willingness to go back to diesel.

The Seattle Times had a good article on HB 1589 to decarbonize Puget Sound Energy's gas business. Joe Nguyen describes it as a "plan for a plan", and says it allows PSE to make a plan for decarbonizing that can be paid for by ratepayers, subject to regulatory approval. The law also removes rebates for gas appliances starting next year.

Elsewhere

A new study published in Nature finds that climate change will cause an income reduction of at least 19% in the next 26 years,  independent of future emission choices. These costs are six times more than decarbonization would be, and grow further over time. "Our analysis shows that climate change will cause massive economic damages within the next 25 years in almost all countries around the world, also in highly-developed ones such as Germany, France and the United States,” says Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research scientist Leonie Wenz who led the study. ”These near-term damages are a result of our past emissions. We will need more adaptation efforts if we want to avoid at least some of them. And we have to cut down our emissions drastically and immediately – if not, economic losses will become even bigger in the second half of the century, amounting to up to 60% on global average by 2100. This clearly shows that protecting our climate is much cheaper than not doing so, and that is without even considering non-economic impacts such as loss of life or biodiversity." 

Climate News 4.13.24

Seattle

Electric vehicle adoption doubled in January 2023 compared to Jan. 2022, and was 17.2% of all new vehicles registered in Seattle. Nationally, EV adoption is at 7% overall.

King County

ACEE Energy Equity for Renters is supporting efforts in King County for "reducing utility burdens and expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency deployment in frontline communities as part of its Strategic Climate Action Plan. ACEEE technical assistance will support a county-led project to analyze the utility burden on renters in frontline communities to help develop policy recommendations that can improve utility bill affordability while meeting the county’s climate goals."

State

There is a new set of conservative initiatives being circulated for signatures, including an initiative that would prohibit any restrictions on natural gas at the state or local level. In order to qualify it would require 324,516 valid signatures by July 5th, and if qualified, it will appear on the ballot in November, alongside the three other conservative initiatives including I-2117 to repeal the Climate Commitment Act. Getting the signatures in the short time available before the deadline will be challenging, but could be done with sufficient funding for paid signature gatherers.

Puget Sound Energy released a fact sheet on HB 1589, the recently passed bill that is aimed at decarbonizing PSE, and allowing an eventual conversion of its current natural gas and electricity business into an electricity only business. This fact sheet indicates PSE's own understanding of the bill, and also combats misinformation about the effect of HB 1589 on natural gas in Washington. Interestingly, it notes that "Natural gas energy use is declining—down 7% for residential and 3% for commercial customers in 2023 and forecasted to continue to decline over the next five years. Electricity use is increasing and forecasted to continue to rise." PSE filed an Integrated Resource Plan in 2021, and another updated one in 2023. The one from 2021 forecasted a growth in their natural gas business of .8% per year in energy usage, in line with a growing population. The IRP for 2023 forecasts a growth in the natural gas business of only .4%, and notes that this is because in 2023 the IRP took into account the projected effects of climate change in the next 25 years with a corresponding drop in energy usage for heating buildings. This reflects a per-customer projected drop of .3% per year; the projected growth of .4% is from growth in customers, reflecting a growing population in the region. Note that these changes are much smaller than was flagged in the recent fact sheet, and it is not clear what is causing the discrepancy. It could be further changes since the IRP was issued, possibly including more customers switching to heat pumps, and possibly just the difference between one year's temperature change and projected 30-year averages. Electricity usage by contrast is rising, and forecasted to continue rising; once natural gas is no longer part of the mix for electricity sources, the drop in residential natural gas usage may be more apparent in the overall totals.

The Washington Observer (paywall) reports that the No on I-2117 campaign brought in $2.3M in March, for a total of $4.4M. So far, the No campaign is running ahead of the Let's Go Washington campaign, where all three conservative initiative campaigns raised $289K in March.

WSDOT has issued a Preliminary Service Development Plan Draft Alternatives and Recommendations Report (pre-SDP) for the Amtrak Cascades intercity passenger rail program for public comment.  Amtrak Cascades is the passenger rail service between Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, with 14 stops in all. It also extends to Eugene, OR. In the new development plan, WSDOT has dropped its goals of trip time improvement on Amtrak, so it is no longer aiming for 2.5 hour service to Portland, for example, which would make it competitive with driving. WSDOT is taking comment until April 18, and can be reached at cascadesSDP@wsdot.wa.gov.



Climate News 4.7.24

Seattle

SDOT and the Mayor's office released a draft Transportation Levy. This new levy would replace Move Seattle, which expires this year. The levy provides one third of SDOT's spending overall, and almost all of the capital projects. The levy would raise $1.35B, up from $930M in Move Seattle, but below the $1.7B that SDOT polling showed would pass, and that advocates had hoped for; in inflation adjusted terms it represents a 10% increase according to the Urbanist.  In spite of the fact that the overall levy is larger than Move Seattle, the new spending proposal has sharp decreases for both transit (-30%) and sidewalk spending (-23%), while spending on road maintenance is up by about 33%. The draft is available for public comment until April 26. Then it will go to Council for approval before going on the ballot in November. Advocates are asking for transit, walking, and biking to be 50% of the investments in the levy. There are a series of public events during the public comment period when you can talk with SDOT:

Seattle's Climate Change Response Framework makes it clear that meeting our climate goals requires increasing transit, walking, and biking as well as electrifying vehicles, and in particular,  transit usage and biking will have to double between now and 2030.

Excerpted from the Seattle Climate Change Framework

The Office of Sustainability and Environment recently posted several job openings, in spite of the city-wide hiring freeze. The three positions are for a grants advisor, a coordinator for the Building Emissions Performance Standards program, and for the Clean Heat Program. This is a possible sign that the Mayor is not planning to significantly cut these programs in order to cover the budget deficit.

350 Seattle's Green New Deal for Social Housing campaign is helping House Our Neighbors gather signatures for the social housing initiative. They have just months to gather 30,000 signatures, and are looking for folks to help out.

Sound Transit

The Link extension to Lynnwood will open on Aug. 30 this year. It will add four new stations: Shoreline South/148th St., Shoreline North/185th St., Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood City Center. During peak hours, trains will run approximately every eight minutes. Bus service changes related to the opening will start on Sept. 14. 

The East Side Starter line, from Bellevue to Redmond, will start April 27. This will connect 8 stations, from South Bellevue to Redmond Technology Center (aka Microsoft), passing through East Main, Bellevue Downtown, Wilburton, Spring District, BelRed, and Overlake.

State

A State timber sale in East King County has been blocked by a judge after opponents sued in court that the environmental impact statement did not take into account the carbon emissions that would be caused by logging. The forest in question is mature, with trees as old as 110 years, and cutting it would emit an estimated 48,700 metric tons of CO2. The State uses money from sales of the timber on its land to fund education, but this is a practice that is under increasing pressure. This decision could impact many other sales elsewhere in the state.

Climate News 3.28.24

Seattle

The City Council Transportation Committee  met, and the Levy Oversight Board gave a report that was an overview on the Move Seattle Levy, and a look ahead to the next Levy. They recommended a larger levy next time, citing the needs of Safety, Equity, Climate, Accessibility and Affordability in that order. They said that the bridge maintenance needs are both real and large, but that the City must also pay attention to these other needs, hence the need for a larger levy. Council also heard a report on Sidewalk Construction and Maintenance, and Councilmembers seem to be committed to improving sidewalk construction and repair. If we keep constructing sidewalks at the accelerated rate we are doing now, it will still take 400 years to complete the job.

The Equitable Development Pilot Proposal is before the Land Use Committee, and meeting some skepticism from Council members. The proposal aims to build more affordable housing by making it more cost effective to build, as well as allowing more homeownership opportunities for residents who have been shutout as a result of redlining and other inequitable former practices, and allowing aging in place opportunities for current homeowners. It would allow at most 36 buildings, but it has run afoul of tree advocates, who are opposed to the 5 foot setback allowed for these buildings. Perhaps more crucially, some Councilmembers were skeptical that the city should be making special allowances for people who are at 50% or higher of the area median income. 

Climate protesters blocked entrances to Amazon headquarters on Weds morning to protest Amazon's support for a new natural gas pipeline. As reported by the Seattle Times (paywall), "TC Energy’s Gas Transmission Northwest Xpress Project, which won federal approval in October and will expand compressor stations at Athol, Idaho; Starbuck, Washington, and Kent, Ore. The work would pump another 150 million cubic feet of natural gas each day." Inslee has opposed the pipeline, which would add an equivalent amount of pollution to 750,000 additional cars. The protesters, a group called the Troublemakers, point out that although Amazon promised to use 100% clean electricity by 2025 and decarbonize completely by 2030, their emissions now are higher than when Amazon made the pledge in 2019. Further, a report from 2022 suggests that Amazon drastically undercount their emissions.

State

Retirements in State government. Jay Inslee will not run again which gives us a race for Governor, currently with front-runners Attorney-General Bob Ferguson (D) and former Congressional Representative Dave Reichert (R), as well as Sen. Mark Mullet, a conservative Democratic state senator. Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig of Spokane is retiring. Senate Pro Tempore Karen Keiser is retiring. With Mark Mullet running for Governor, his state senate seat in Issaquah is open. Sen. Sam Hunt, the chair of the State Government & Elections Committee, is retiring, which could change the outlook for voting reforms, and Jessica Bateman, who has been very active in housing, will run for his seat. Kevin Van De Wege, chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee is running for Lands Commissioner, which leaves his seat open. Frank Chopp, former state Speaker of the House and representative from the 43rd is not running for reelection. Shaun Scott, who ran a strong race on the left in D4 in 2019 has announced that he will run for that spot. House Minority Leader, J.T. Wilcox is also retiring. There are also a number of Senate leaders who don't need to stand for election this year, but are running for other offices. With all of these seats changing, we should expect a lot of change next year.

A new electrification website for Washington debuted. It has lots of useful information for home electrification, including detailed information about rebates, and how to find contractors in your area.  Heat pumps, water heaters, dryers, electric fireplaces, EV chargers, grills, it's all here. Information for renters as well as homeowners available.

Elsewhere

A study has been released on how climate change is contributing to inflation. The study finds that higher temperatures, more intense and frequent heat waves and other factors are already driving up the prices of food and other goods worldwide. Although the effect goes across the entire economy, the study anticipates inflation in food prices globally by 1-3% per year between now and 2035, with the effect stronger in places with a naturally warmer climate. It is unfortunate that inflation is used as a justification for higher interest rates, which in turn decrease investments in clean energy alternatives.

Climate News 3.16.24

Seattle

The draft Comprehensive Plan contains a Climate Element, which is what the City is using to replace the Climate Action Plan. The Climate Element starts on page 137. It affirms the City's 2030 and 2050 goals for overall emission reductions, and for transportation notes: "But Seattle is not yet on track to meet our 2030 emissions reduction goals. More aggressive change is needed across the transportation sector."

Also of note: the City does not expect that the Comprehensive Plan will be passed in 2024, as called for by State law, but believes it will be passed in Q1 of 2025. This was briefed to the City Council by OPCD and the Mayor's office.

The City released a 2023 Progress Report on the One Seattle Transportation and Climate Executive Order from 2022. The report notes the following:

The Executive Order specifically said that the "community conversation" they would hold in 2023 would inform the investments made in the Transportation Levy.

From the SDOT Transit Performance Policy

State

Ecology released the results of the latest Cap & Invest auction: "all of the 7.4 million current vintage allowances sold at a settlement price of $25.76", for a total of $62.5 million. This is significantly lower than the high of Q3 2023, $63.03. Clean & Prosperous Washington created a chart showing relative allowance costs over time for a number of different carbon markets, and argues that they are all more expensive at first and then settle into an expected value. They note: "the price decline is not wholly unexpected: It is within the range that we have witnessed in other prominent Cap-and-Invest programs." Other observers believe polluters are under-buying in the hope that the CCA will be voted down.

Elsewhere

The Rhodium Group reported that US GHG emissions fell in 2023 by 1.9%. This is not much, but it is notable because at the same time the economy as a whole grew by 2.4%. US emissions are now 17.2% below 2005 levels. The report cited a mild winter, as well as decreasing coal for power generation. "If emissions had continued to decline at the same rate as 2011-2019 instead of the pandemic-induced turmoil of 2020-2022, emissions would be about 2% higher today than we’re estimating them to be—suggesting at least a modest acceleration in the pace of decarbonization." The report notes that although this is a step in the right direction, we would have to more than triple the rate of decline, and sustain it for every year from now to 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement goals of 50-52% reduction by 2030.

Climate News 3.11.24

Seattle

The Mayor released the draft Comprehensive Plan. Most commentators seem to agree that the plan tilts towards more townhomes, but this may not be enough to accomodate much additional growth. The Urbanist quotes Julia Reed "The largest city in the state should be maximizing the use of the tools [the Washington State Legislature] is providing them, not doing the minimum.” The Office of Community Development and Planning is doing a series of six open houses around the city to talk to residents, see below for details. For some coverage, see KUOW, the Urbanist, Hacks & Wonks (21:38)OPCD will present the plan to Council later today @ 2:25 pm.

State

The Legislative Session is now over. All the bills which were awaiting reconciliation got it. But there is a fair amount of controversy over what happened with HB 1589, the PSE Decarbonization bill, and now there is an action from the Sierra Club: No PSE handout at ratepayers' expense! to ask the Governor to make a selective veto.

The Dept of Commerce just released a study on residential building decarbonization. The Executive Summary is here, the complete report is here. This was a study that some Seattle building decarbonization advocates had argued for and got in the budget in 2021.

Elsewhere

The Legislature just voted to allow networked geo-thermal heating pilots in Washington. In Massachusetts, a pilot project is currently in progress, and expects to go online later this spring. A gas company there is trying out the idea of replacing gas lines in a neighborhood with ground source heat pumps powered by electricity.  The utility will still supply heating, just using electricity.

And, informally, this headline recently caught my eye: UN Climate Chief's Blunt Message: Fewer Loopholes, Way More Cash to Really Halt Climate Change. He was talking about the developed countries passing stronger rules and paying for decarbonization elsewhere, but it applies equally well at home.

Climate News 3.2.24

Seattle

The Mayor released the Seattle Transportation Plan, which will be presented to the Transportation Committee on Tuesday morning. See here for an overview. The new plan comes in two parts. Part One outlines the vision, describes the engagement, and has at the end a long list of possible capital projects. Part Two is a Technical Report that goes over what used to be all the different plans (Bicycle Plan, Transit Plan, etc.) and lays out the criteria for prioritizing the different goals for different contexts.

The Mayor released the Equitable Development Zoning, Part 2, aka Connected Communities (The Urbanist). It is now before the Land Use Committee. The proposal would set up zoning incentives for projects that set aside 30% of units as affordable and partner with community-based organizations. At most 35 projects would be built under this pilot program. Representatives from affordable housing groups and some climate groups were in support, some tree advocates came out in opposition

State

The Legislative Session ends next week. What remains is finalizing the budget bills, and reconciling the bills that passed both chambers but were amended differently in the two houses. One person I heard from said that overall it seemed like a much less ambitious year, partly because of the short session, but also because of uncertainty over upcoming elections, open positions like the Governorship, and some prominent people retiring. So, here's hoping the elections go well because there's a lot riding on it.

Following is a quick summary of bills, for a more complete look see here

These bills all passed and are awaiting the Governor's signature:

These bills have passed both chambers but require reconciliation:

And, these bills missed the cutoff and are no longer in consideration:

The State Dept of Commerce released a Priority Climate Action Plan. The plan was funded by a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for helping states, tribes and metropolitan areas to develop comprehensive climate plans. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency will be doing the work for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area which includes all cities in the four county region. The EPA requires that all PCAPs include a GHG Inventory, quantified GHG reduction measures, a Low Income and Disadvantaged Communities Benefits Analysis, as well as a review of authority to implement each measure. There will be a state-wide Comprehensive Climate Plan that follows in the summer of 2025, and a follow up status report in 2027.

Climate News 2.27.24

Seattle

Mayor Harrell gave the State of the City address (KUOW). In it, he made these points relevant to climate:

Sound Transit

Sound Transit has ordered 33 double-decker electric buses with inductive wireless recharging for the Stride Bus Rapid Transit that will run from Renton to Lynnwood along I-405. The buses are scheduled for delivery in 2026.

State

The State Legislature has just passed the cutoff date for bills to have passed the fiscal committee in the opposite chamber. All remaining bills must pass through Rules, have a floor vote, and possibly be reconciled. The session ends March 7. Here's the status of some of the climate-related bills:

Passed both chambers, still need reconciliation:

Waiting on a floor vote:

In Rules Committee:

These bills are looking dead now (failed since the previous report):

Elsewhere

Colorado introduced bills that would improve air quality. One would increase penalties for repeated violations. Another would extend the ozone season for two extra months; this would limit activities, such as oil and gas exploration, that would increase ozone. And the Colorado Dept of Transportation would be required to come up with ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled. The bills are meant to improve air quality in the Denver Metro area, south to almost Colorado Springs and north to the Colorado-Wyoming line north of Fort Collins and Greeley.

The Atlantic reported on two studies on the effects of air pollution. In the first report. economists report that the recession of 2007-2009 increased life expectancies in the US. "Out of every 25 Americans age 55, for instance, one appears to have received an extra year of life. On average, across all age groups, the recession reduced the American mortality rate by 2.3 percent." The recession was only 2 years long, but the longer life expectancy lasted 10 years.. If you use standard accounting for the value of the longer life expectancy, it turns out that the recession paid for itself, "What Americans lost in income and purchasing power, they gained in life-years"; the value of the extra time to live was about the same as the reduction in earnings. 

Climate News 2.7.24

Seattle

House Our Neighbors announced that it would run a campaign for a new initiative for social housing. The previous initiative set up the administration of the social housing, this one will be to fund the housing. The initiative would apply a 5% payroll tax on companies who have employees making more than $1M per year, and could raise $50M per year, starting in 2025. This could be enough to pay for 2000 additional units of new social housing over 10 years. House Our Neighbors will have 180 days to gather 26,521 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The Seattle Transportation Plan and Levy are expected to be released sometime in Feb., and will have 4 weeks of public review, after which it is expected to go to council in April. The Transportation Levy needs to be passed this summer in order to get on the ballot for Nov. The City has planned to meet its decarbonization goals for 2030 mainly by vehicle electrification and mode shift, and one thing to evaluate for the Transportation Levy is whether the planned investments will be enough to get the level of mode shift that we need.

The draft Comprehensive Plan is now many months delayed, but expected in Feb or March.

State

Legislators are holding Town Halls, see here for a schedule. Usually the legislators give a recap of how things are going, sometimes will discuss for things that failed why they failed. It is a great chance to ask questions about climate bills, even just bringing the topic up shows the legislator that people care about it. It can be a simple matter of asking what has been done on climate, or it can be any specific climate concern you have.


The Legislative Session just passed its fiscal cutoff, and the next deadline is Feb 13 for when bills must have passed their House of Origin, or be Necessary To Implement the Budget. Below see the status of some of the big climate bills, here's a link to see many others. Click the tab on the bottom to show Dead Bills.

These bills have passed their Chamber of Origin, and move on to the opposite chamber:

These bills have been scheduled for a floor vote:

All other bills that are still under consideration are in their chamber's Rules Committee. The Rules Committee in each chamber schedules bills for floor votes.

These bills failed to advance and are no longer under consideration:

Elsewhere

The Biden Administration  announced that they would postpone making a decision on new LNG export terminals until it can more thoroughly study the effect on the climate and on the American public. This is a major win for the climate, as the new terminals would be a natural gas mega-project and have been described as a "climate bomb". For more info on this, there's a new podcast from Robinson Meyer and Jesse Jenkins with more background information.

A report from UC-Boulder concluded that Biden's climate platform may have been pivotal in winning the 2020 election (paper). "We find that climate change opinion has had a significant and growing effect on voting that favors the Democrats and is large enough to be pivotal to the outcomes of close elections. We project that climate change opinion probably cost Republicans the 2020 presidential election, all else being equal."

Climate News 1.24.23

Seattle

The City Council appointed Tanya Woo to fill Theresa Mosqueda's at large position on the Council.  Tanya Woo will chair the Committee on Sustainability, City Light, and Culture, which is a key committee for those interested in climate. Here's a summary from her on her priorities for Seattle; she doesn't say much about climate directly, but is in favor of increased traffic safety and more public transit service.

King County

The County released a 2023 Biennial update to the Strategic Climate Action Plan. It notes: "The most recent GHG inventory for King County showed that emissions increased to 27.1 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2e) by 11 percent compared to 2007. Per-capita GHG emissions have declined over time 7 percent and 23 percent in 2019 and 2020, respectively, compared to the 2007 baseline year. The most substantial drivers for an increase in emissions were population growth, higher GHG emissions from electricity provided by Puget Sound Energy, and increased aviation emissions. Increased efficiency of passenger vehicles (decreased emissions per mile) was the largest contributor to decreasing emissions." The report also has a useful graphic illustrating the need for further local action on climate, and another one that shows how much reductions result from each policy. The grey & black areas represent changes we still need to make, and the light green are reductions we will need from aviation & marine transport.

State

The Legislative Session is in full swing, since it's a short session, time is going by quickly. The first deadline for bills to pass their policy committee in the Chamber of Origin (either House or Senate) is coming up next week, Jan 31. Bills that haven't gotten the approval of their policy committee by then will be "dead" for this year, although they can be reintroduced in the next year. Here's a quick recap of some (but certainly not all!) of the climate-related bills:

I-2117, an initiative to repeal the Climate Commitment Act, has been certified for the ballot. The Legislature has the option to adopt the initiative, to let it go to the voters as is, or to submit an alternative that will appear on the ballot together with the initiative. This is one of six initiatives backed by Republicans, the others, not yet certified, would repeal the capital gains tax, roll back the police vehicular pursuit law, give parents a "bill of rights" to review their children's curriculum, let people opt out of long term care insurance, and block state and local governments from enacting income taxes.

Climate News 1.3.24

Seattle

The new City Council had its first meeting on Jan 3 (Crosscut). They elected Sara Nelson as Council President. They will be accepting applications for a replacement for Theresa Mosqueda through Jan 9.  They made the following committee assignments:

Here are some things we can expect over the next year from city government:

January

June

November

December

Sound Transit

Julie Timm, CEO of Sound Transit has resigned, and will be paid one year's severance pay while she is on retainer to provide consultations. It is not clear why she is leaving, but it seems likely that there were differences with the Board, which is mostly made up of elected officials from counties and cities within the Sound Transit service area. Sound Transit will be starting a search for a new CEO. In the meantime, the technical advisory board has voiced concerns that problems they have pointed out remain, and that important management oversight roles, beyond that of CEO, still need to be filled.

State

Northwest Natural, a gas company that serves 2.5 million people in northwest Washington, has been offering builders $2000 to install gas in appliances and hook ups in new homes. This is according to The Guardian: Revealed: US utility firms offer builders cash and trips to fit new homes with gas appliances. The article points out: "The longstanding relationship between gas interests and the building sector could be a major impediment to decarbonizing buildings, which account for roughly one-third of US greenhouse gas emissions."

The State's Legislative Session starts on Jan. 8 and runs through March 7.


Note: if you would like to weigh in on climate legislation during the Legislative Session, a great way is to subscribe to 350 Washington's Civic Action Team, which sends out twice weekly updates on legislation with quick actions you can take to influence the outcome. Another great resource is Climate At the Legislature.