State lawmakers approve key climate and environmental legislation

Bills target clean fuel standards and carbon emissions.

Several key pieces of climate and environmental legislation passed this year, including bills for carbon cap-and-trade and clean fuels.

Washington state officials have for years tried to implement both measures, and this session — which ended on April 25 — finally saw both pass.

The first, HB 1091, will establish a clean fuel standard by 2023. It passed both branches of Washington state’s Legislature on April 25. In the Senate, it was approved in a 26-23 vote, and in the House it passed with a 54-43 vote.

The passage of this bill was lauded by Washington state Democrats, including Sen. Reuven Carlyle, chair of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee.

“This puts us on track to meet the state’s science-based, statutory limits on emissions,” Carlyle said in a press release.

The bill’s passage was also praised by environmental groups, including Leah Missik with Climate Solutions.

“Finally, Washington will let up on the gas and instead hit the accelerator for clean fuels to power our transit, freight and personal vehicles,” Missik said in a press release.

Under the bill, the state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below 2017 levels by 2028. By 2035, emissions must be below 20% of 2017 levels. The clean fuels program is scheduled to begin by Jan 1, 2023, provided the Legislature passes a transportation-spending package by then, the Seattle Times reported.

SB 5126 established a cap-and-trade scheme for carbon emissions. It limits the total amount of carbon pollution that can be emitted by companies in the state, and over the following decades, will reduce that amount until the state reaches net-zero emissions. It will also raise the gas tax by 5 cents.

Under the state’s cap-and-trade measure, businesses will be allocated a certain amount of carbon they can emit. Companies can either buy or sell these credits on the market depending on whether they believe they will emit more or less than their allotted amount.

The bill passed the House on April 23 in a 54-43 vote, and cleared the Senate the following day with a 27-22 vote.

Also approved this legislative session was HB 1050, which limits the amounts of hydrofluorocarbons in new air conditioning units and refrigerators.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans and some organizations like the Association of Washington Business criticized the bills.

“We’re disappointed lawmakers chose to raise taxes and adopt other policies such as a cap-and-trade program and low-carbon fuel standards that will place new hurdles in front of employers and employees struggling to survive the pandemic by adding cost to travel,” said Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, in a press release.