2021 State Legislative Recap 

Shift Zero flexed its muscles during the 2021 session, championing two bills to move new construction away from operating with fossil fuels and to kick-start the state’s transition from gas. Both were introduced by Rep. Alex Ramel (D-Bellingham).

HB 1084 was an ambitious, comprehensive bill that would have: 

  • Required the State Building Code Council to make all new buildings fossil fuel free by 2030; 
  • Allowed local governments to voluntarily amend the state’s residential energy code to be stronger; 
  • Extended the state’s benchmarking and operations requirements under 2019’s Clean Buildings Act to smaller commercial buildings; 
  • Removed the prioritization of gas from state statutes;
  • Require gas utilities to make plans for how to decarbonize their operations; 
  • Supported a just transition to electricity by helping gas industry workers and low-income ratepayers; and 
  • Created a state-funded heat pump lab and incentives. 

Shift Zero members will work with stakeholders to refine this bill and educate policymakers over the summer and fall.

HB 1280 would have required additional energy evaluation criteria in the planning of major state-owned or leased facilities for both new construction and renovations. This bill passed the House and made it to the Senate floor, but it was not brought up for a vote prior to the cut-off date. However, it is in a good position to make it to the Governor’s desk next session. 

Shift Zero advocates were able to move some pieces of HB 1084 into other bills and into program funding in the state budgets. For example, SB 5295, a utility regulatory bill, makes the “policy of the state” fuel-neutral, changing statute language to “energy services” instead of “electric and gas”.  In addition, projects were funded in the operating budget:

  • $1.35 million for Commerce to implement building emission reduction strategies that have been identified in the 2021 State Energy Strategy. 
  • $450,000 to the Utilities and Transportation Commission to initiate an investigation to analyze pathways for gas utilities to meet the state’s GHG reduction targets. 

Finally, the Capital Budget included funding for some key state programs that can help address building emissions: 

  • $10 million to the Weatherization Plus Health program, which provides energy efficiency and healthy related retrofits for low-income homes. This funding also includes $5 million for the Community Energy Efficiency Program (CEEP).  
  • Just under $10 million to fund energy retrofits for public buildings.
  • More than $56 million to the Clean Energy Fund, which provides grants and funding to develop and deploy clean energy technologies. This includes $10 million to fund building electrification technologies this biennium. 

Other Shift Zero Climate Priorities 

Environmental Justice: HB 5141 to officially implement the recommendations of Washington’s Environmental Justice Task Force was finally enacted this year. The bill will add measures incorporating environmental justice analysis and decision-making into future state agency actions. 

HFCs/Refrigerants: HB 1050 will restrict the maximum global warming potential for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in new stationary air conditioning and refrigeration and direct the Dept. of Ecology to establish a refrigerant management program. This legislation was a continuation of a 2019 bill that established deadlines for banning the use of HFCs in refrigerants. 

Buy Clean Buy Fair (embodied carbon): HB 1103 would have required environmental product declarations for materials used on large state projects as well as reporting on labor practices by the manufacturers of the materials used in the project. Contractors would have been required to report this information to the state, which would have used it to develop a database used to make decisions on lowest-carbon materials in the future. After the bill died, supporters were able to secure $150,000 in the Capital Budget for a Buy Clean Buy Fair state pilot program. 

Other Climate Bills 

Other key climate bills passed the legislature and are on their way to the Governor’s desk: 

  • The Climate Commitment Act will establish a cap-and-trade program to set a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions that will lower over time. California and states in the Northeast have similar programs. 
  • A low-carbon or “clean” fuel standard will require cleaner fuels for cars and trucks as part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions from transportation. California, Oregon, and British Columbia have similar low-carbon fuel standards in place. 

Both policies have been under consideration by the Legislature for several years, and both were priorities of Gov. Inslee, who has made combating climate change his signature issue. Implementation of both bills is contingent on future passage of a gas tax increase of at least 5 cents to fund new projects. Such an increase is likely to be included in a multi-year transportation revenue deal if one can be agreed on. 

For more end-of-session perspectives, see posts from Front and Centered and Climate Solutions.

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