An awesome session for nature in Olympia

The Washington state Legislature adjourned Sunday night, after taking giant steps forward for nature and people this session. Several new, groundbreaking policies will solidify Washington state as a national leader in tackling climate change.

Capitol campus was in bloom on March 28, when our trustees visited the Legislature to speak up for nature. Lawmakers adjourned Sunday after approving major policy and budget progress on conservation and climate priorities. TNC photo.

Last week, on Earth Day, lawmakers put their final approval on the centerpiece of a set climate-change bills – the 100% Clean Electricity bill – along with a measure to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These bills joined the Clean Buildings for Washington Act in awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature to make them law. Sign up for updates to receive an invitation to join us for the bill-signing celebration on May 7.

Though Initiative 1631 (the 2018 ballot measure to put a price on carbon pollution in Washington) did not pass, the coalition we helped to build reached across traditional boundaries to bring together business and labor, tribes, health organizations, faith leaders, communities of color, social justice organizations and the environmental community. Undaunted, this mighty partnership carried forward its momentum to continue advocating for smart, equitable climate policy in Olympia.

We applaud our partners in advocacy for meaningful action, and the champions in the House and Senate who made it a reality. As our climate continues to change, stressing our economic, environmental and social systems, we will be better equipped to meet these challenges thanks to forward-looking leaders and advocates. Today, we celebrate together!

Explore the Science on Equity

Read: TNC Research Shows Increased Wildfire Risk Among Minorities

Explore: Front & Centered’s Washington state Environmental Health Disparities Map

Advancing environmental equity

The Legislature approved policies to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but to prioritize communities that have been overlooked and underserved by environmental progress in the past. The capital budget included support for equity in environmental health, creating a task force to address the unequal distribution of health risks and pollution impacts across Washington.

Our floodplains provide clean water, bountiful harvests and places to make our homes. Floodplains by Design helps communities manage rivers at a system scale - an approach legislators supported with the program’s highest-ever appropriation this year. Photo by Marlin Greene.

Legislators also approved support for programs that enhance the resilience of our communities and natural systems:

  • Floodplains by Design received $50.4 million—its highest biennial appropriation ever—allowing nine integrated river management projects to proceed, reducing flood risk to homes, farms and businesses, restoring fish habitat and enhancing recreation opportunities.

  • The Washington Coast Restoration and Resiliency Initiative received $14.1 million, a stronger-than-ever show of support for a program that provides jobs in coastal communities through ecosystem restoration work.

  • The Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife received $16.2 million for forest hazard reduction to reduce wildfire risk

 Additionally, legislators signaled their support for cleaning up polluted stormwater before it reaches our waterways, with $83.2 million for the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program and $1.5 million to support an innovative public-private partnership to filter runoff with green stormwater infrastructure.  They also passed a bill to update the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), stabilizing funding for the cleanup of toxic sites and polluted runoff.

A family enjoys Seward Park in Seattle. Legislators approved budget and policy priorities to accelerate cleanup of our waterways and Puget Sound this session. Photo by Caleb and Ariana Babcock.

 Ever onward, together

There is more work to do: restore the health of our forests and protect communities from wildfire; clean up Puget Sound and recover the salmon and orca that depend on it; and bolster the health and resilience of communities across Washington. We will continue to work with partners old and new to advance public policy and budget support to benefit nature and people. We will amplify the voices of supporters like you who demand a green and healthy future for all of Washington. But at this historic moment, let’s celebrate!