Puget Sound, Washington State. Image courtesy of Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica.

Washington State Passes Cutting-Edge Policies To Reduce Climate Pollution

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Decarbonizing utilities: Washington passed the first law in the United States that outlines a pathway for a combined gas and electricity utility to transition away from gas for all of its customers. Proposed by Puget Sound Energy, the bill allows the utility to merge electric and gas customers into a single rate base and supports electrification of whole neighborhoods to allow for the decommission of gas lines in the future. Advocates worked through challenging negotiations to ensure low-income ratepayers will be first in line for electrification funding. Washington State requires all utilities to achieve 100 percent clean electricity by 2045, and this law paves the way for the state’s largest dual-fuel utility to decarbonize as well.

Converting to zero-emission school buses: This lawrequires school districts to make a gradual shift to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) once the total cost of ownership falls below the cost of a diesel-fueled bus. We expect ZEV buses to become cheaper for schools to own and operate within five years. NRDC’s study on the impact of diesel exhaust from buses on children’s health was quoted in this regional news coverage of the bill.

Reducing food waste and methane emissions: HB 2301 creates multiple strategies for Washington to reduce food waste, address statewide hunger, and increase requirements for diverting organics from landfills, where food and yard waste rot and produce methane, a potent climate pollutant. The bill creates a new Center for Sustainable Food Management to issue grants that support the bill, as well as a commodities donation grant program to assist growers and grocers in donating food to avoid waste.

Developing geothermal energy: This geothermal bill amends the state’s “obligation to serve” for gas utilities to allow them to sell thermal energy instead of gas to customers. Thermal energy networks use a network of ground-source heat pumps to heat water, which runs through pipes underground. Buildings in the network can be heated with more efficiency across a wider variety of weather. The Washington budget supports the bill with a $25 million grant to fund gas utilities’ pilot programs. Washington State follows Colorado and New York in allowing utilities to provide networked geothermal heat to customers.

Linking Washington’s carbon market: new law makes essential changes to align the Climate Commitment Act with California and Quebec’s linked carbon allowance market. The state’s Department of Ecology has recommended linking the state market with larger carbon markets, which will take several years of negotiations and policy adjustments. Allowance auctions in Washington State have been generating funding for clean energy investments, including funding for heat pumps for low-income households, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, diesel and truck pollution reduction, and tribal projects.

Washington’s lawmakers also passed significant improvements to protect people and the environment.

Protecting children from lead in cookware: The reducing lead in cookware bill addresses a crisis in lead poisoning that was identified by the King County public health partnership, which used funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test cookware used by local resettled Afghan refugees. The study published in Nature identified that aluminum cookware is a significant source of lead exposure, especially when manufactured in the developing world. The Seattle Afghan Health Initiative brought the legislation forward. The bill passed the legislature with unanimous votes, making Washington the first state to ban the sale of lead-containing cookware.

Buying clean materials: HB 1282 will drive reductions in embodied carbon in state-funded construction projects. This bill aligns Washington’s practices with the Federal-State Buy Clean Partnership and the Pacific Coast Collaborative principles on low-carbon construction. The bill requires state contractors to report on large construction projects, including suppliers’ declarations on environmental, health, and working conditions for covered products, such as concrete, steel, and engineered wood. The bill also creates a work group to recommend policies to increase production and use of low-carbon construction materials.

Saying farewell to mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs: HB 1185 will make Washington the eighth state to ban the sale of mercury-containing light bulbs for general use. Consumers will wind up saving money because LED bulbs are much more efficient and longer lasting. During the fluorescent bulb phaseout, the state will continue operating its product stewardship program, which makes it free for consumers to safely dispose of these bulbs through their local hazardous waste programs.

Moving toward protecting pollinators: SB 5972 will end certain lawn and garden uses of the toxic neonic pesticides that kill bees and other wildlife, contaminate water supplies, and threaten human health. Washington follows similar action taken in several states, including a California law passed earlier this year. While SB 5972 does not go as far in restricting neonic use as the recent laws in NevadaNew Jersey, or the milestone New York Bird and Bees Protection Act, it hopefully marks a good first step toward protecting Washington’s bees, ecosystems, and people from destructive neonic pollution.

A guest blog by Kate White Tudor, NRDC’s representative in Olympia, Washington, legally facilitated by Giulia C.S. Good Stefani, NRDC.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Videos

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.


NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals.

NRDC has 394 posts and counting. See all posts by NRDC