On May 17, Governor Jay Inslee signed a series of bills focused on strengthening environmental regulations in Washington state.
One of the major documents that were signed focuses on prioritizing climate change; a group of three separate bills aiming to reduce Washington’s single-use plastic waste and hydrofluorocarbon pollution. Inslee states that, “Our climate commitment, made by our legislature in 2020, is to cut climate pollution by over 50% in the next nine years, on our pathway to net-zero climate pollution by 2050.”
The first bill of three is House Bill 1050, which will hold businesses and companies accountable for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from hydrofluorocarbons, or fluorinated gases. The legislation plans to do this by building on federal and state policies to significantly reduce emissions from these pollutants.
The second portion is House Bill 1091, which will enforce a clean fuels standard and tackle the primary cause of air pollution head-on: transportation. It plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions in transportation fuel. However, the bill’s text emphasizes that fuels from aircraft as well as railroad locomotives and vessels will be exempt from the clean fuels program. The standard will also allow for new jobs across the state focused on building and operating biofuel refineries.
The last of the three, Senate Bill 5126, also known as the Climate Commitment Act, will cap-and-reduce climate pollution, essentially meaning that it will regulate multiple sources that account for Washington state’s emissions. While doing this, the bill also plans to collect revenue for climate investments.
In addition, the governor signed Senate Bill 5022, which aims to ban certain styrofoam products, requiring more recyclable content in plastic bottles and other containers in hopes to reduce plastic pollution in Washington state. This bill now makes Washington the sixth state to ban Styrofoam products.
Finally, the last set of regulations was Senate Bill 5141, known as the HEAL Act, which focuses on taking steps in bringing environmental justice to communities that are directly affected by health impacts in order to reduce local air pollution. The bill will require environmental justice to be at the forefront of Washington’s programs and planning for community engagement. It will also require state agencies to conduct environmental justice tests to see what agency actions could be done to help communities who are overburdened by environmental impacts.
Despite the successful passage of these bills, many lawmakers dispute over the decision made by Inslee to veto portions of HB 1091 and SB 5022, which could have required a statewide transportation funding package. Specifically, both bills had a line that included a 5-cent gas tax increase, which attempted to decrease carbon emissions while increasing funding for new roads, highways and other projects.