Climate News 2023

Climate News


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:






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."

Climate News 12.17.23


The City Council unanimously approved the Building Emissions Performance Standard! This sets a requirement and a timeline for commercial buildings larger than 20,000 square feet to decarbonize. Rulemaking, where many of the nitty gritty decisions will be made, is scheduled to start in June 2024 and complete in 2025. You can sign up for more information.


Governor Inslee unveiled his climate priorities for the 2024 Legislative Session. They include these bills

And the draft budget includes these funding priorities for spending $941M in CCA revenue:


Massachusetts state utility regulators issued a ruling that establishes a framework for shifting from methane (natural) gas to clean energy for heating and other uses in order to address climate change. The article notes: "At least 11 other states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington) as well as Washington, D.C., have ongoing regulatory cases that are exploring the future of natural gas." For Washington, this may be referring to HB 1589, which the legislature is expected to pick up again this year, and is one of the Governor's priorities.

Climate News 12.3.23


The Special Committee on Climate Change met on Nov 29 for the introduction of the Building Emissions Performance Standards. The legislation is proposed by the Mayor, and has been sponsored by Lisa Herbold, as well as by Theresa Mosqueda and Dan Strauss. Council President Juarez spoke in support at the meeting. There were numerous people commenting, all in favor of passing as written. There will be a second meeting on Dec 7 at 9:30am for a committee vote. If it passes, it will be voted on in a full Council meeting the following week on Dec. 12. Reporting from Geekwire, and the Capitol Hill Blog.


The State Building Code Council  (SBBC) voted to adopt a point-based system that will prevent most fossil fuel use in new buildings. Previously the SBBC had voted to require clean energy in new buildings, but suspended application of the new rules after a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a gas ban in Berkeley California. The new rules are not an outright ban, but give builders choices about how to meet efficiency and clean energy standards that should lead to most buildings being electrified. The Building Industry Association of Washington is opposed to the new rules, and seems likely to sue to challenge the new rules in court. The rules will go into effect March 15, 2024.

Restore Washington turned in signatures for an initiative to the ballot next year to overturn the Climate Commitment Act, our Cap and Invest program passed by the Legislature in 2022. This is part of a suite of initiatives to repeal laws passed by Democrats in the Legislature. If there are enough valid signatures to qualify, as seems likely, the Legislature will have the option to either pass the proposed initiative, pass it with amendments, or put it on the ballot for a general vote.

HB 1110, the middle housing bill passed last year by the State Legislature requires local jurisdictions to update their zoning codes to allow for middle housing in more places. The Dept of Commerce has drawn up a draft of a middle housing ordinance that local communities may use in as an example.  Commerce is accepting public comment on this until Dec. 6. Here's a take on it from the Urbanist: Model Code Missing the Point on Middle Housing.

WashDOT is taking public comment on the update to the Highway System Plan through Dec. 18. They say "WSDOT has developed a new draft HSP that recommends new revenue for state highways over the next 20 years be dedicated first to adequately funding preservation and maintenance, with remaining funds balanced between safety and efficiency strategies and highway expansion projects at a 2:1 ratio. " 


The Federal government released the Fifth National Climate Assessment, which "is the US Government’s preeminent report on climate change impacts, risks, and responses. It is a congressionally mandated interagency effort that provides the scientific foundation to support informed decision-making across the United States." This is the first report that has a chapter on climate justice. The Climate Science on Tap event was a close-up look at the Pacific Northwest chapter, which is a deep dive into how climate change is expected to affect our region.

Climate News 11.12.23


SDOT is holding an online "office hours" for the Seattle Transportation Plan on Nov 14, 12-1 pm. The meeting will be on Microsoft Teams. Visit this link to enter the meeting and to learn more about the draft STP and ask questions. Download Teams if necessary in order to access this meeting.

King County

The King County Council voted to explore possibilities for a ballot measure for next year that would set up a $1 billion climate fund for decarbonization and resilience (SeattleTimes; paywall). It is unclear how this would be funded, but it could be property tax, sewer or garbage fees, or even a bond measure (although that would require 60% voter approval). Funds could be spent on decarbonization of transportation and buildings, resilience, and conservation of green space. 


The Dept of Commerce is holding an Energy Navigator Kick Off Summit Nov 29, noon-1pm. The Navigator would be a "tool to help homeowners, renters and small commercial building owners access electrification and energy efficiency services throughout the state, as well as home energy rebates that will be available in the future. " Funding for the navigator was passed by the State Legislature last Session as part of building decarbonization efforts.

The Environmental Priorities Coalition is holding an Advocacy Days event December 4-8 to match up environmentally-minded constiuents with their legislators to discuss climate and environmental priorities for the upcoming Legislative Session. Register here. There's a webinar on 11/16 once you signed up for more info, and practice sessions are also available. 

Climate News 10.14.23


Correction - an earlier version of this story erroneously said that the NAR was spending $200M on Seattle races, it was $200K.

The National Association of Realtors is putting $200K into four City Council campaigns in support of Tanya Woo (D2, running against incumbent Tammy Morales), Joy Hollingsworth (D3, running against Alex Hudson), Bob Kettle (D7, running against Andrew Lewis), and Maritza Rivera (D4, running against Ron Davis). This money represents a substantial share of what the campaigns have already raised, and will likely be used for advertising that promotes the same messaging as the campaign. If all four candidates win, it would represent a swing right. The Washington Observer, which reported on this story, notes "If the Realtors’ slate and Saka were to win, it would represent a four-vote swing to the right compared to the current council. If all four of their opponents were to win, along with Maren Costa in District 1, the council’s ideological makeup would sort of shift to the left."

Sound Transit

Sound Transit is hiring three new metaproject czars as one step to implementing the recommendations of an outside group of experts. This group issued a (Seattle Times paywall) report in May that warned of the possibility of many more delays and overruns unless Sound Transit starts making changes. Sound Transit Board Members Claudia Balducci and Kent Keel had asked for the group to be convened after a $6.5B shortfall was revealed two years ago.


The proposed new eastern Washington hydrogen hub was one of 7 winners for Federal funding to start up hydrogen production. Hydrogen could be a clean energy source for industrial processes that currently use fossil fuels to generate heat (e.g., steel, glass, cement manufacturing). Because it is very difficult to transport hydrogen, it could be that the hydrogen hub will end up hosting some new clean energy industry in eastern Washington , in addition to producing green hydrogen using electrolyzers. The Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub (Washington, Oregon, Montana) is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs, 8000 in construction and 350 manufacturing hydrogen.

The Washington Transportation Commission is looking into raising tolls significantly for express toll lanes  on I-405 and SR-167 (KING5). Tolls statewide have been doing poorly since the pandemic, there's been significant cost increases in construction, and the State has had to dip into other funds in order to make bond payments. This is an effort from the State to find more funds to pay for improvements. Note that these are for the express toll lanes only, othr lanes of the same roads will be unchanged.

The Seattle Times ran an opinion piece from Jon Talton, WA's Climate Tax is Vexing Motorists, But the Price is Worth It.


Minnesota passed a new bill requiring their DOT to take climate goals into account when planning new transportation projects. The new law requires the State and local jurisdictions to do an analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from new projects. Projects that have increased emissions, or that are found to be not in line with the State's goal of decreasing emissions will have to reduce emissions elsewhere in order to proceed. So they may have to pair a road improvement with an improvement to transit infrastructure or service, or to add bike lanes or  pedestrian enhancements that are likely to reduce VMT and emissions. Among many other things, they are building some new intercity rail as a result. Listen to the excellent podcast on (bypassable paywall) Volts with David Roberts, or see this from Transportation For America: How Minnesota Set an Example for Climate Legislation

Reducing cars in downtown areas: New York City last year closed off 11 blocks around Fifth Avenue to vehicle traffic for the holiday shopping season. Businesses within the pedestrianized area had an increase of 6.6% in shopping revenue compared to similar streets nearby that were not closed. The Mayor is looking at extending this year round to increase accessibility of Fifth Avenue for people walking. And Stockholm has decided to ban gas and diesel cars from a 20-block zone of its downtown starting in 2025. Other cities have set up low emission zones, but Stockholm's plan goes further and prohibits polluting cars. Exceptions will be made for hybrid vans, cars for disabled people, and emergency vehicles.

A report from the Rhodium Group that looks at investment nationally in clean energy projects shows a big increase in investment in manufacturing, particularly for EVs. It also shows a big uptake in individuals purchasing EVs, and a good increase in solar as well as storage, but much more modest growth in heat pumps. A good article on these issues from the New York Times (paywall): The Climate Fight Will Be Won in the Appliance Aisle. For heat pumps, they are a bigger share of the home heating market, but the market as a whole is depressed because it is sensitive to interest rate hikes. The bottom line for heat pump affiancados might be that the IRA may require more help from states and utilities to make significant progress.

Climate News 10.9.23


SDOT released a Climate Change Response Framework, which is their vision for how to reduce emissions from transportation in Seattle by "making it easier, safer, and more welcoming for people to walk, bike, and take transit. In addition, we’re committing to utilize city policy to help electrify trips and reduce the carbon emissions of all types of delivery and trucking." The report references the City's "ambitious climate goal for 2030 to reduce GHG emissions from transportation by 82%", but this goal is not a headline element of the report. The report suggests an overall reduction of passenger vehicles from 65% of trips to 45% in 2030 (in 2030, 10% of trips would be by EV, and 35% by internal combustion engines cars). The report also details the co-benefits that would be realized, saying that for every $1 invested, there are $8-$10 in co-benefits. The report says that they have done modelling using a Climate Calculator that they have developed, to estimate the impact of policy choices on emissions. The report does mention the need for funding, talks about some possibilities, but does not identify any specific funding source. They will consider establishing a new office within SDOT for implementation of the plan, and explore streamlining decision making. The report details 27 different strategies, and evaluates them based on GHG reduction, cost, legislation needed, co-benefits, and whether it represents a new or expanded program.


Washington will receive $1B from the Federal Government for work on State roads and charging infrastructure as part of the Infrastructure Act. Of this, $934M is for projects on state highways, $130M for bridges, and $15M for EV charging infrastructure. This makes a total of $71M that the Fed Gov is putting into WA for charging. Currently in the state, 1 out of 6 cars are now electric. There are additional funds for charging coming from a settlement with Volkswagen, and from private companies. I would expect that the Legislature will make decisions about how to apportion the money in the next Legislative Session.

Sen Joe Nguyen,  chair of the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy, and Technology is proposing a new bill to detect price gouging on gasoline. The price of gas in Washington is $5.13/gallon, second highest in the nation. Republicans point to the recent passage of the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), which they say places a hidden tax on gas. Democrats point to what they say is monopoly pricing, where there is only one gas pipeline for western Washington from Alaska, and a small set of refineries, reducing competition. The new bill would establish a State commission which would have access to pricing information from the fossil fuel companies, so they can determine if there is price gouging going on. This mirrors a similar law passed in California last year.

The third CCA auction raised $356M for State investments in emissions reductions and climate justice, as well as a further $184M for utilities to spend "to help their customers through billing credits, weatherization and energy efficiency programs, and other cost-saving initiatives." This is the first round that utilities have participated in; they receive free allowances from the State, which they can resell for funds to spend on climate positive programs. There will be another auction on Dec. 6. The price for allowances in this auction was $63.03, up from the previous auction in June which had a price of $56. So far, each successive auction allowance price has been higher than the last. By comparison, the 2023 Q3 price for California was slightly over $35, also showing an upward trend.

Climate News 10.1.23


The Mayor released the draft 2024 Budget Update. In 2023, the City issued a two-year budget. The Budget Update is a mid-biennium chance to revisit the decisions made in 2023, usually to reflect updated revenue projections and new priorities. The Council will be working exclusively on the Budget Update until it is approved, likely in mid-November. The proposal does includes $530K for implementation of Building Performance Emission Standards in 2024, even though this bill was not put forward to Council. A more complete description of the Office of Sustainability and Environment part of the budget is here.

The City has received a $12.9 million grant over 5 years from the USDA "to plant and maintain trees where people live, learn, and play to combat extreme heat and climate change, improve access to nature, and support green careers for young people." Of this, $900,000 is for the Delridge Native Forest Garden to enhance approximately four acres of City-owned parcels and unimproved rights-of-way in the Longfellow Creek basin in West Seattle. The money is part of the Federal Infrastructure Act.


A Conservative PAC is bankrolling a slate of initiatives to the Legislature, including one to roll back the CCA (remove the hidden tax on gas). Other initiatives include, among others, removing the capital gains tax and restoring the ban on income tax. Recently both progressive and conservative groups have been unable to get enough signatures on ballot initiatives because of Covid concerns and cost, we'll see if that still holds.

Front and Centered released a report that analyzes the State's CCA expenditures, and finds that less than 7% go to overburdened communities, not the 35% required by the bill. See Legislature Falls Short on Community Climate Commitments.


California is suing oil companies for misleading the public on climate change, and seeks to establish a fund to pay for future damages from climate change. The California Legislature also passed a bill which requires companies that operate in California and have more than $1 billion in revenue to report their greenhouse gas emissions. Companies that make $500 million or more will also be required to disclose the financial risks climate change poses to their business. In March, California passed a price gouging law that applies to oil and gas businesses. The price gouging rule also requires these companies to report information on pricing to the State. In June, Inslee and other Washington State Democrats called for more transparency of fossil fuel pricing, so we may see movement on this in Washington as well.

California moved to limit the amount of embodied carbon in new and remodeled commercial buildings, starting in 2024.

New York adopted "Buy Clean Concrete" rules for its public buildings and projects, which requires that its concrete be low carbon. New York is the first state in the country to require clean concrete.

Climate News 8.31.23


Mayor Bruce Harrell failed to send the Building Emissions Performance Standards (BEPS) bill to Council, which is likely to delay it until at least next spring. BEPS was sent out for EIS review in June. That review is now completed, and BEPS was expected to be submitted to the Council in time for consideration in early September. There is no formal statement from the Mayor's office announcing the delay, or the reasons for it. This news is from 350 Seattle, Sierra Club, and other organizations that have been working to move this forward in order to establish a timeline and requirements for decarbonizing large commercial buildings in the city. 350 Seattle released a report Who Owns Downtown Seattle?, which notes:

There's an article in the Stranger about all this: Mayor Harrell Delays Climate Action He Already Weakened, and a good summary in the Capitol Hill Blog.

A draft version of the Seattle Transportation Plan is now available. You can review it and make comments on the engagement hub, or send email to The Urbanist has an article on it by Ryan Packer, Seattle's Transportation Plan Shows an Ambitious Vision, But the Hard Part Comes Next. SDOT will be presenting it to council at the next meeting of the Transportation Committee on Sept 5, at 9:30.

Seattle's Office of Planning and Community Development released a Climate Vulnerability Assessment, funded by a grant from the State Dept. of Commerce. The report takes an array of climate risks, including extreme heat, landslides, flooding, and smoke, and looks at how these risks could come together and which neighborhoods are most vulnerable to them. It looks at projections to how these risks are likely to grow in the future, how they impact the people and the local economy, and what could be done to make neighborhoods more resilient to them.

SDOT announced more Healthy Streets that are being made permanent. These were originally established during the pandemic to provide more safe spaces for people walking and biking by limiting automobile use on some roads to local access only. They are, by neighborhood:  Aurora-Licton Springs, Georgetown, Lake City (Cedar Park & Olympic Hills), Othello/Rainier Beach, South Park, and Wallingford. SDOT's longer term plan for Healthy Streets is that each one will either be made permanent, or returned back to previous usage.

Sound Transit

The Sound Transit Board voted to extend its planning for ST3 by another 2 years until 2026 while consultants study a new route through downtown proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Herrell. The additional planning adds $38 million to the cost of ST3, but the two years of delay will  also likely cause additional cost overruns if the cost of construction or the cost of land goes up. Just two years ago, the Northwest Progressive Institute found that a majority of Seattle residents were willing to pay extra to get the Link completed faster, and this change will increase both the time and the cost for the project.

The Sound Transit board approved the East Link starter line. It will open next spring, and allow trains from Bellevue to Redmond while work continues on the segment that crosses Lake Washington and connects to Seattle.


As WSDOT pursues Federal grants for the Ultra High Speed Ground Transportation (UHSGT) program the Joint Transportation Committee published a report which was done to independently review the status of the UHSGT before more funding is allocated. This article summarizes the WSDOT and JTC reports. The June 30th report from the JTC indicates that the cost of the project could be more than $70 billion given the need for 80-90 miles of tunneling for a new rail line. In addition, the report indicates that the project would take many decades to complete.


Portland announced a 5-year $750 million dollar Climate Investment Plan. The spending plan is:

The funding for Portland's Climate Investment Plan comes from a 1% surcharge on sales of large retailers. It is similar in some ways to Seattle's Green New Deal, except that it is at least 6 times larger for a population that is slightly smaller than Seattle's. For a comparison, while Seattle is spending roughly $32 per person per year on climate, Portland is spending $230 per person per year, or roughly 7 times more.

The Federal Government announced $3 billion in funding for climate resilience projects, to be made available as grants to communities. The money is part of the Federal Infrastructure Act, and will be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). In related news, FEMA is projecting it will have used up its yearly budget sometime in the fall, due to recent severe weather and climate disasters.

Climate News 8.22.23


City-wide candidate forums will be held Sept 5 (districts 2, 6, 7) and Sept 6 (districts 1, 3, 4, 5), focusing on Zoning, Growth & the Comprehensive Plan. They will be held in person at the Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Ave., from 6-7:30 each evening. Sponsored by Real Change, Futurewise, Habitat for Humanity, Housing Development Consortium, Tech4Housing, Chief Seattle Club, The Urbanist, and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. Registration is required, using the links above.

The Building Emissions Performance Standards will come before the Council starting in early Sept, with the first meeting expected on Sept. 5 in the Sustainability and Renter's Rights Committee. There will be an evening meeting, Sept. 7 at 6pm in order to hear more comments. There are two upcoming training sessions to learn more about BEPS and how to comment, 5pm on Aug. 23 with 350 Seattle or 6-8pm on Aug. 31 with the Sierra Club. You can register for either event by clicking on the links. ShiftZero did a Lunch And Learn that covers the policy in depth, you can view it here, and slides are here.

The City Council Transportation Committee is considering rules to allow more traffic cameras to enforce speeding, block the box, restricted lane and crosswalk infringements. This was enabled by State legislation passed last spring that allows  Seattle to add traffic cameras at schools, hospitals, parks, and other busy pedestrian areas. The cameras cost an estimated $4000/year to operate, but citations are expected to more than cover the costs. Unlike school zone cameras, these new cameras can operate all day, every day.

The Office of Sustainability and Environment has launched its pilot program to help electrify heavy duty trucks in the Duwamish valley. The program offers a point of sale rebate for new trucks, and covers about 40% of the cost, up to $140,000 per truck for eligible drivers and fleet owners, or $1.7 million in total funding. Drivers have until Oct. 14 to apply, successful applicants will be notified early in 2024.

The Green New Deal Oversight Board has open positions! Apply by Aug 28. The following 3-year positions are open:

King County

The County announced a new Energize! Heat Pump pilot program, which will install 120-150 free or discounted heat pumps in White Center and Skyway-West Hill unincorporated areas. The program is open to single-family homeowners and renters; income-qualified residents may get 80%-100% of their costs covered.


The State has applied for $200 million in Federal funding for planning for a high speed, 250 mph rail service from Portland to Vancouver, BC by 2050. Washington's 8 democratic congressional representatives and 2 senators all signed off on the funding request. It would create an entirely new rail right of way, not part of either BNSF or Amtrak. In 2017, a State report estimated the cost of the entire route when built at $42 billion, and construction prices have risen since then. Presumably, Washington would not be responsible for the entire cost. The State has already put $50 million into planning, and promised an additional $100 million.


A Montana judge ruled in favor of Our Children's Trust in a lawsuit filed by Montana youth who argued that the State of Montana, by not taking climate change into account, violates the youth's rights under the State Constitution to a "clean and healthful environment." This is the first time such a suit has won in court. The State has 60 days to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court. A similar case in Hawaii is scheduled to go to court in June 2024. 

A referendum to ban oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO biodiversity reserve, passed in Ecuador with nearly 60% voting in favor of the ban.  This is the first time a nation has voted to ban oil drilling. In a second referendum in Quito, voters blocked gold mining, by an even larger margin.

Climate News 8.9.23


A City Council committee voted to remove funding for planning for the Center City Connector, a proposed new streetcar line to connect the South Lake Union line to the First Hill-Broadway line.

The Revenue Stabilization Workgroup has issued its report on ways to meet Seattle's revenue gap. Besides austerity, the report listed these ways to potentially boost revenue:

Sound Transit

The Sound Transit board has voted on new locations for the new South Lake Union stations. The "Shifted North" is the new preferred alternative, as requested by Mayor Bruce Harrell, which puts a new station just north of Denny. It preserves the possibility of the station just south of Denny, so that will continue to be studied, and it removes the possibility of a station on Terry Ave. The Terry Ave. location was removed mainly because of difficulties with utilities. The new preferred location north of Denny will be more expensive by about $170 million, and it is not clear where the extra money would come from, but there are a lot of concerns about the original, south of Denny location as it is believed it require the closure of Westlake Ave for 4 years. This new alternative will require a new EIS; the proposed changes to Chinatown station would also require a new EIS. See reporting in the Urbanist for more details.

Stride BRT, which is a new bus rapid transit service to run from Tukwila to Lynnwood on the east side of Lake Washington along new dedicated lanes on I-405, has hit cost overruns of $200 million and will also be delayed by several years. There are many reasons for this, and much that could be done, but hasn't, to contain costs. See this article in the Urbanist: Stride BRT is Vastly Over Budget, Risks Stressing Other ST3 Projects.


There's a new initiative for rolling back the Climate Commitment Act, which is bankrolled by Republican mega-donor Brian Heywood. Getting the initiative on the ballot would require 324,516 valid signatures by Dec. 29 of this year. If successful, the initiative would then come before the Legislature next Session, and assuming lawmakers don't approve it, would go on the ballot in 2024. Thanks to the Washington Observer.

Climate News 7.19.23

Sound Transit

Sound Transit is holding two webinars for community outreach about the South Lake Union stations, July 20 12-1pm, or July 25 5:30-6:30pm. See here to register, under "Upcoming Events".

ST3 may need another reset, according to a recent article in the Urbanist.. Apparently in order to run ST3 at 6 minute headways, as planned, it would need many more trains because the original plan underestimated time needed for maintenance and travel time; apparently there are places where trains have to slow down more than anticipated for curves. These problems are already impacting service, with many trains running three cars long instead 4 cars in order to compensate. Solving these problems may require rethinking how and where maintenance is done, and may open the door to other possible ways of structuring service that might lead to other improvements.


How Washington's Middle Housing Legislation Applies in Your Community from urban designer Scott Bonjukian describes how the middle housing bill passed in the last Legislative Session will affect cities and counties in Washington. 79 cities, home to 55% of the state population, mostly but not entirely on the west side of the state, will need to make reforms in the coming years. It also briefly discusses other housing bills passed in the session.


Fervo Energy, a startup focused on enhanced geothermal energy for electrical production, has successfully completed a well test that shows that geothermal energy is practical in many more locations than the surface locations currently used. Many people have been looking for advanced geothermal energy as a possible affordable 24/7 clean power source for electricity, let's hope something good comes of this.

Climate News 6.23.23


The General Manager of Seattle City Light, Debra Smith, is stepping down, and the Mayor has established a search committee to help select a new general manager. The Committee will review applications over the summer, and recommend 3 finalists next fall.

The Mayor put forward two new bills to streamline the design review process for new buildings, and reduce the amount of time required for building new housing. The first bill would make permanent the exemption for affordable housing from the design review process that was approved temporarily during the Covid emergency, plus extend the exemption to apply to affordable home ownership projects. The second bill would allow all housing builders the option of doing a shorter administrative design review, and exempting entirely housing builders who meet their MHA requirements with onsite units. These proposed changes are inline also with bills passed in the State Legislature in the 2023 Session. The combination of these with the state bills could speed up some projects by as much as 12-15 months, according to the Mayor's office. Since design review for some projects has taken over 2 years, that could be an underestimate.

The Mayor put forward a proposal for a new $970 million Housing Levy to replace the current levy, which will expire. The levy as proposed will create 3100 affordable homes, and provide other housing related services to 9000 low-income households.

King County

King County has put out a survey to gather feedback on their 2024 Comprehensive Plan. The survey has four parts, social equity, housing, climate change & environment, and general planning. The questions are mostly value statements on a wide variety of topics, with agree/disagree/unsure and a possibility to add written feedback as well. I'm not sure when the deadline is, but I expect around July 9. Please add feedback!! If you don't have time for the whole thing, at least the climate change section.


The north Atlantic is having an extreme heat wave, with June sea surface temperatures higher than  in the last 170 years. It is described as "totally unprecedented".

Climate News 6.8.23


The Mayor announced the long awaited Building Emissions Performance Standards. According to the Mayor, "the Building Emissions Performance Standard Policy (BEPS) is expected to reduce annual building greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 325,000 metric tons by 2050 – a 27% decrease from a 2008 baseline." This proposed legislation is now finalized, and being sent for SEPA review. It will then go to the City Council, where it is expected to be heard in the Sustainability and Renter's Right Committee. Climate activists are very supportive but are also looking for ways to make it stronger, and bring the time lines in.

The Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) announced a delay in release of the draft Comprehensive Plan. It is now expected in September. They will be doing public engagement after the release, which will be detailed on their Engagement Hub. They are looking for opportunities to meet with groups starting in September, and those interested should email

The Mayor announced the winners of the City's competition for innovative office to residential conversion ideas. This contest was established as part of the Mayor's Downtown Activation Plan. "OPCD, the Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) and other city departments, will study the submitted ideas and key findings to determine what kind of legislation and regulatory modifications – including code and permitting, incentives, budget, and partnerships – are necessary to support and effectively advance future conversion projects and development proposals." The submissions will be on exhibition, for details, click on the link.


The second Cap & Invest auction for the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) raised $550 million, which came in higher than had been expected. Allowances sold at $56.01 for this year, and future allowances for $31.12. This is  higher than the $48.50 price from the March auction, and almost double the price of the California allowances. The money generated by the auctions will pay for programs meant to limit climate change and its negative effects; in the budget just approved, this included money for transit, heat pumps, electrifying ferries and trucks, and helping communities disproportionately impacted by climate change. Story from the Washington State Standard here.

The Department of Ecology filed two emergency rule changes related to the CCA. These changes take effect immediately, and they have started the process to make the changes permanent. The two changes are:

The APCR auctions are different from the regular CCA auctions, and are called when the price in a regular auction goes above $51.90. They are a mechanism that is meant to contain allowance prices.


India put a pause on development of new coal-fired electricity plants. The pause will last 5 years, during which time they will concentrate on adding new capacity in renewable energy.

Climate News 5.26.23


The Office of Sustainability and Environment released the results of the engagement done on the Building Emissions Performance Standards. The engagement ran from July 2022 to May 2023, and contains lots of pro letters from climate groups, but more interestingly, all the con letters mostly from building owners (see page 47 for their list of requests).

City Council passed the new Tree Ordinance, 6-1. Pedersen was opposed, Juarez and Sawant were absent.


The State Building Code Council voted to reopen rulemaking, and to delay the code by 120 days in order to respond to the recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling striking down the City of Berkeley's gas ban. "The Council also directed SBCC staff to convene two Technical Advisory Groups to consider stakeholder proposals to modify sections in the commercial and residential energy codes. The modification would be intended to address legal uncertainty stemming from the decision in California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley recently issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. SBCC staff will compile those proposals for the full Council to consider at a later date. "

A new airport in Western Washington is looking less likely after Gov. Inslee vetoed several provisions of HB 1791. This bill reset the search for a new airport, but with the veto, the State is redirected to first consider expanding existing airports, excluding Seatac, before considering a new airport. Story from the News Tribune.

The State Department of Ecology is starting rulemarking for reporting on the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), Washington's Cap & Invest program. "Ecology is starting new rulemaking focused on reporting requirements for state agencies that receive and use these auction revenues to fund various climate programs, projects, and initiatives across the state. From this information, Ecology must compile an annual report to the Legislature that shows where funds were spent and, for decarbonization projects, the greenhouse gas reductions they achieved." Public comment on the new reporting rule will begin in June and extend through fall 2023.


Amazon did a quiet cancel of its Shipment Zero policy, which called for a net zero emissions of 50% of their shipments by 2030. Instead, they folded it into their broader Climate Pledge to reach net-zero carbon across all its operations by 2040, which moves the commitment out by 10 years.

The European Heat Pump Association released a list of European countries that have banned fossil fuel heating

Climate News 5.6.23


Waste Management is going to take down the signs on their trucks that read "Breathe Clean Seattle: Powered By Renewable Natural Gas." These trucks do not run on renewable natural gas, they run on fossil gas. KUOW reports "After complaints from environmental activists, Seattle Public Utilities officials say they will get Waste Management to take down the ads."

The City is delaying the effective date for the new building codes, from July 1, 2023 to "no sooner than October 2, 2023 to accommodate a City of Seattle legislative review which is longer than anticipated this code cycle". This includes the new Seattle Energy Codes which were adopted in 2021.

The City released a new Frequent Transit Service Area Map (see page 3), which is used for figuring out parking requirements for land parcels. The previous map was based on 2018 service schedules. What's obvious about this map is how water view areas have much less service than other areas, presumably because they have so much fewer people.

SDOT is restricting right turn on red in order to improve safety for people walking and biking as part of its Vision Zero program. SDOT estimates that 9% of all collisions with people crossing the street at traffic lights are crashes from drivers taking a right turn on red. Initially, these changes will affect high traffic intersections downtown, but SDOT will also be evaluating other intersections when traffic lights are installed or modified, or as part of SDOT's safety programs.


The Ninth Circuit Court struck down Berkeley, CA's ban on new gas hookups in a suit brought by the restaurant association. This court case has been used as an argument to delay or scrap the new Washington energy code. However, according to Earthjustice, this ruling does not apply to jurisdictions like Washington where energy efficiency standards make it tougher but not impossible to use gas for cooking.


The California Air Resources Board unanimously approved the Advanced Clean Fleets Rule which requires the conversion of California's 1.8 million commercial trucks to emissions-free vehicles over the next two decades.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District approved a rule in March that phases out fossil fuel-based furnaces and hot water heaters. Under the new rule, residential hot water heaters sold or installed starting in 2027 must be zero-emission. Furnaces have until 2029, and commercial hot water heaters until 2031. Existing appliances may continue to operate, and may be repaired, but no new fossil fuel units can be purchased or installed. This is part of an effort to reduce NOx emissions; regulators concluded that the new rules were required in order to meet Federal clean air standards. This follows the California Air Resources Board which last year voted to adopt rules to ban the sale of new fossil fuel furnaces and hot water heaters after 2030.  There will be a second vote in 2025 after rules have been drafted, before taking effect.

New York became the first state to pass legislation banning natural gas in new buildings. Washington and California have adopted building codes that largely prevent new buildings from using gas, but this was the first to go through the legislature. New York was the sixth largest natural gas consumer in 2020. 

Climate News 4.15.23


Revenue projections from the City's Budget Office forecast a $31 million drop in JumpStart revenue for 2023 and 2024. This is still above the level the City originally projected when it instituted the tax, but a big drop from what we've been seeing. This could have a big negative impact on spending for climate, as well as affordable housing and the General Fund. Other city revenue is down as well, especially the Real Estate Excise Tax, which is down by $22 million because of less multifamily development. The Downtown Seattle Association and the Chamber of Commerce have proposed a 3-year moratorium on the JumpStart tax, as well as opposing the Building Emissions Performance Standards.

The Mayor released new legislation to "update the City's industrial lands policy and zoning to create an estimated 35,000 new jobs and 3,000 new homes over the next 20 years". The rezoned areas are not subject to MHA. The zoning includes space for:

The new jobs to housing ratio proposed is 10:1, so although the jobs will be very welcome, the workers may have significant problems finding housing.


A fishing factory ship fire in Tacoma released 10 tons of freon (R-22) gas –  equivalent in CO2 emissions to the impact of burning 1.7 million gallons of gas. Trident, the company that owns the ship, has been repeatedly cited and fined for not fixing freon leaks. Manufacturing or importing freon gas is illegal under the Montreal Protocol, but there is still a lot being used. Maybe the freon tanks on ships should be fire resistant? Story from KUOW.


The Legislative Session bills that have not yet passed both chambers will no longer be considered. The Legislature is currently working on reconciling bills, including the budget related bills. The Session is scheduled to  end on April 23. 

These bills have passed both House and Senate and are awaiting the Governor's signature.

These bills have passed both chambers but require reconcilation:

Bills that failed the opposite chamber floor passage cutoff:

Climate News 4.9.23


350 Seattle is calling for an Earth Day Action April 22 at noon at City Hall in support of the Building Performance Emissions Standards, as part of their Electrify Seattle campaign.


Two weeks left of the Legislative Session. Here's a quick wrap on some of the climate-related bills.

Waiting to be signed by the Governor:

 These bills have passed both chambers and are awaiting reconciliation:

There are numerous bills that have not yet passed the opposite chamber. These bills, among many others, have until 5pm on Tuesday to pass:

Climate News 3.28.23


A new Tree Ordinance was introduced and is being heard in the Council's Land Use Committee. There will be a total of five more hearings between now and May (one hearing has already happened). The legislation amends the tree protections currently in place, making them more strict. An article in The Urbanist explains the proposed legislation in detail.

350 Seattle is calling for an Earth Day Action April 22 at noon at City Hall in support of the Building Performance Emissions Standards, as part of their Electrify Seattle campaign.

Sound Transit

The Sound Transit Board approved the new proposal of North of CID and South of CID stations as the preferred alternative for new downtown stations as part of ST3. This new alignment, which has not undergone study, will be studied for a year before a final Record of Decision is made next year. This new proposal will be the default proposal, making it likely that the original proposal for a transit hub at CID and for a Midtown Station will be scrapped. There's an article on this in Publicola, Publicola also has a story out on the $280K the Mayor spent on lobbying Sound Transit to get this result.


The Legislative Session has another cutoff date tomorrow: bills that have not passed the policy committee in their chamber of origin by end of day on Wednesday will be dropped. Most bills have either passed or at least been scheduled for  a vote, but two of the building electrification bills, as of writing, have not been scheduled: HB 1391, the Heat Pump Portal bill, and HB 1433, the Home Energy Score bill. HB 1589, the PSE Decarbonization bill has a new striker proposed, which, I'm told, helps to clarify and constrain the powers given to PSE.

Budgets are moving rapidly through the Legislature! Votes in committee scheduled this week for the CAA and Transportation Budgets.


A special bonus today for climate nerds looking to sink into graphs and statistics on climate related data: Nat Bullard's Decarbonization: the long view, trends, and transience, net zero. It's an "annual effort to capture the state of climate and decarbonization: how we got to now, where we are going, what's new, and how to think about what's next". It's also featured on Canary Media's Catalyst podcast.

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.


Interesting report from Nat Bullard on global energy trends - lots of charts.

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.