Climate Change Policy Clears State Senate Committee

Last night, Washington state took one step closer to effectively and reasonably addressing climate change, as a state Senate committee passed a bill to reduce carbon pollution and move to a clean-energy economy. The bill includes substantial investments in the health of our natural resources and rural economies, and represents the input of hundreds of stakeholders who have engaged in the development of a policy that will work for all of Washington.

We are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Reuven Carlyle and Guy Palumbo, as well as the other senators who supported the bill as it passed through the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee. The bill is still a work in progress and has several more steps to take before becoming law, but its committee approval demonstrates the great momentum in the Legislature and across Washington’s communities behind addressing the urgent problem of climate-changing carbon pollution.

Ponderosa pine on Chelan Butte, showing scorch and  elevated crown base as a result of fire.  Photo by John Marshall.

Our state director, Mike Stevens, applauded the progress of the bill and the energy behind it:

“Washingtonians are seizing the opportunity to reduce pollution and invest in people and communities statewide. The bill represents a good-faith effort and hard work by hundreds of individuals, tribal nations, business owners and community organizations to contribute to legislation that will be broadly supported and will reduce carbon pollution, improve our economy and protect the lands and waters of the place we are fortunate to call home.”

As Washington state seeks to lead the nation in addressing climate change, it’s critical that we create policies that work for the whole state. Rural communities, natural-resource-dependent industries and other businesses that are dependent on carbon-intense transportation and production processes have joined the discussion because without them we will not be able to create a policy that will meaningfully and equitably address climate change.

Building a green wall for aesthetic enhancement and particulate reduction in Seattle on Make A Difference Day. Photo by Marissa Singleton. 

How to Become Involved

Action on Climate is a top legislative goal for the Environmental Priorities Coalition, a group of nonprofit organizations in Washington state advocating for a healthier environment and healthy communities. Learn more about the coalition’s priorities, sign up for updates, and find out how you can get involved.

Their voices are just as crucial to the conversation as those of environmental, public health and urban-community interests. Together, these different perspectives and voices have come to the table in an effort to create policy that works for everyone in Washington. The result is an evolving solution that has both legislative strength and public support — and an opportunity to make history.

In the bill that cleared committee last night, revenue from carbon pricing will be invested in Washington’s clean-energy economy and will directly support our natural resources, making our state more resilient to the effects of climate change, such as forest fires and floods — impacts we are already feeling. The bill includes provisions to assist low-income households and workers whose jobs may be affected as our state transitions to clean energy, and it concentrates a portion of funds specifically for communities hardest hit by pollution. It also addresses the needs of long-distance commuters, fuel-intensive industries, such as agriculture and fishing, and businesses that compete in states and countries that may not share Washington’s commitment to strong environmental and social policy.

Climate change is not a partisan issue; it’s a real challenge that takes all of us working together if we are to ensure a healthy future for our families. It is encouraging to see the common ground Washington state is finding around the simple responsibilities of picking up after ourselves and taking care of each other.

Fishing guide and Yurok tribal member, Pergish Carlson, stands atop a tree trunk and looks at the forests around the Klamath River in northern California. Photo © Kevin Arnold

We are hopeful for the future that meaningful, broadly supported carbon-pricing legislation can help create. We can position Washington state at the cutting edge of our global economy by creating jobs that will be good for workers' health and good for their pocketbooks, as they innovate cleaner technologies and steward our lands and waters. 

The bill that passed yesterday isn’t perfect and will likely undergo further changes as it moves to the Senate Ways and Means Committee to be considered next. But this decision is a strong sign that if we listen to all sides, address concerns and compromise where needed, we can find a solution that will move us closer to a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous Washington for everyone.

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