Environmental Protections, Climate Action and More at the State Legislature

The 2022 Washington State Legislative Session began on January 10th and runs for 60 days. This is the second year of the biennial session, which usually results in only small changes to the budget. However, the positive revenue forecast plus the passage of the federal bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides an unprecedented opportunity to increase funding for salmon recovery, reduce fossil-fuel pollution, and implement climate mitigation policies.

Photo by Mark B Gardner

Due to the current surge of COVID-19, much of the Legislative Session will be held remotely, though plans may change as information and public health guidance is updated. All committee meetings and floor sessions will be live-streamed on TVW, with testimony held remotely.

Here are some important resources:

Friends of the San Juans 2022 Washington State Legislative Priorities

Gov. Inslee’s salmon recovery plan and climate proposals.

SB 5885 Concerning marine shoreline habitat.

Requires the State to conduct a baseline survey of all marine shorelines to document and map existing shoreline conditions. State and local agencies would then be required to compare permit data with survey results to identify unpermitted development subject to enforcement. The surveys would also be required to be updated every two years, which would deter new unpermitted development.

HB 1838 /SB 5727 (SB 5665?) Protecting, restoring, and maintaining habitat for salmon recovery.

The Lorraine Loomis Act honors the legacy of the former chairperson of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission who passed away in August 2021. This legislation improves riparian buffer requirements and includes $100 million for a new riparian grant program.

HB 1691 Concerning financial responsibility requirements related to oil spills.

Improves the state’s requirements for oil handling facilities (refineries, oil terminals, and pipelines) and large commercial vessels to show proof of financial responsibility to pay for response and damage costs from oil spills and hazardous materials spills.

HB 1661 / SB 5619 Conserving and restoring kelp forests and eelgrass meadows in Washington state.

Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows provide critical habitat for forage fish and salmon, are essential to the Southern Resident orcas’ food web, and play an important role in climate mitigation and adaptation by sequestering carbon and relieving ocean acidification. This legislation (subject to available funding) would “establish a kelp forest and eelgrass meadow health and conservation plan that endeavors to, by the year 2040, conserve and restore at least 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows.”

HB 1700 / SB 5598 Concerning sustainable funding for the derelict vessel removal account using the vessel watercraft excise tax.

While the number of derelict vessels continues to increase, the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Derelict Vessel Removal Program (DVRP) has not seen a budget increase in 10 years. Consequently, DNR regularly has to ask the Legislature for additional funds and/or local jurisdictions have to cover the cost of derelict vessel removals in order to avoid costlier and environmentally damaging oil spills.

SB 5697 Renewing Washington’s recycling system and reducing waste.

The RENEW Act modernizes Washington’s recycling system and reduces waste by creating a set of graduated fees on packaging manufacturers based on how readily reusable, compostable, or recyclable their products are. Fees will be used to fund improvements in infrastructure, uniform access for residents across the state, and a clear list of what people can recycle.

HB 1117 Promoting salmon recovery through revisions to the state’s comprehensive planning framework.

This legislation would require the land use element of comprehensive plans adopted under the Growth Management Act (GMA) to include a strategy that achieves net ecological gain of salmon habitat. The Department of Fish and Wildlife would be required to adopt rules that establish criteria for net ecological gain which certain counties and cities must meet through adoption of comprehensive plans.

SB 5567 Concerning commercial salmon fishing.

This legislation would remove the restriction on the use of pound nets, round haul nets, fish traps, fish wheels and certain other gear for catching salmon and steelhead, allowing commercial fishers who strive to fish sustainably the option to use fish traps that are tested and proven to safely release threatened and endangered wild salmon and steelhead.

Friends is also supporting the WA Can’t Wait campaign:

  • HB 1099 Improving the state’s climate response through updates to the state’s comprehensive planning framework.

GMA updates to ensure Washington cities and counties are planning for climate resilient communities while reducing our contributions to the climate crisis.

  • SB 5042 Concerning the effective date of certain actions taken under the Growth Management Act.

Protect farmland, forests, and critical habitats from unnecessary and harmful development and sprawl by closing the ‘illegal growth loophole.’

  • HB 1220 Supporting emergency shelters and housing through local planning and development regulations – passed in 2021 legislative session. Funding is needed for housing equity and to ensure the implementation of this bill.

Four bills would reduce fossil fuel pollution from our homes and buildings and improve energy efficiency and affordability:

  • HB 1770SB 5669 Strengthening energy codes.
  • HB 1774SB 5722 Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in buildings.
  • HB 1766 Modifying the regulation of gas companies to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • HB 1767SB 5666 Concerning the authority of publicly owned electric utilities to engage in targeted electrification through the adoption of plans that establish a finding that utility outreach and investment in the conversion of its customers’ end use equipment from fossil fuels to electricity will provide net benefits to the utility.

It means so much to me to have helped protect the rural environment and natural beauty of the San Juan Islands during the 1980s and 90s. Now I get to share my appreciation of these beautiful islands with my grandchildren, too.

Nancy DeVaux

former Executive Director and member, San Juan Island