Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

2009 Washington State Legislative Session

Thankfully, the 2009 regular session is now over. The environmental community brought an ambitious agenda into the session and we ran into a buzzsaw caused by a deep recession, concern about unemployment, and an unprecedented budget deficit. We are disappointed only one out of the four environmental community priorities passed, but we survived this brutal session without any major rollbacks, and managed to pass some good legislation on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and transportation.

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2009 Legislative Priorities




Energy Efficiency First (HB 1747 / SB 5854)

The cheapest, fastest way to reduce our emissions and save money is to make our buildings more efficient. Efficiency First is a bill that creates standards and efficiency scores for consumers to gauge the energy costs of a building, while providing tax incentives for energy efficiency and reducing low-income customer’s costs. The Senate Democratic Caucus made this bill one of their caucus priorities for the session.

Update: SB 5854 Passed both the House and Senate, now awaiting the Gov's signature. Fully funded in the final budget.


Clean Energy Initiative (I-937) (ESSB 5840)

In 2006 the people of Washington passed I-937, the Clean Energy Initiative, to increase the amount of clean power in Washington to 15% of our energy by the year 2020. Without this initiative, we cannot meet our greenhouse gas reduction requirements


Update: This bill is worthy of an entire book. In the end, we reached a reasonable compromise that would have preserved the integrity of I-937 while providing some flexibility for utilities. The bill died, however, because legislators from Tacoma and Clark County objected to the compromise and threatened to kill all the other tough bills on the final day of the session. So leadership finally put this bill down in order to have the ability to pass other bills that are necessary to implement the budget. They missed a couple of those, however, and now there is the potential of a 1 day special session. It's entirely possible that this I-937 bill could come back up during a special session.

Even though we supported this bill, we are okay without a bill passing. We thought this was a reasonable compromise, but there is so much interest in this issue, it looks like we will have to go through this slog again next session (if it isn't resolved in a special session).



Cap and Trade/Invest (HB 1819 / SB 5735)

The Sierra Club seeks to steadily reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide in a cost-effective manner. This governor proposed bill would set limits on Washington greenhouse gases, and allow industries to buy and trade credits for their emissions, promoting renewable energy.

Update: Cap and trade died; it was just far too complex for a part time Legislature dealing with a $9 billion budget deficit 

Later, the bill was amended to try to deal with the state's only coal plant. The Sierra Club, however, opposed the bill because it would have allowed the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia to continue burning coal for another 16 yrs before they would be required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The Sierra Club believes we the Northwest can be coal free within the next decade.

Despite strong support from the Gov. and some of the other environmental groups (the bill did contain some decent language to help reduce vehicle miles traveled, and some of the environmental groups supported the coal language), the bill failed to come up for a vote in the Senate.


End Oil and Coal Tax Subsidies (SB 5766 / SB 6029)

If nothing changes, 2009 is the last year for renewable energy companies to receive a tax break in Washington State. Meanwhile the oil and coal industries' tax break continues. We would like to see an end to the subsidies for polluting industries like oil and coal, and an extension of the tax break that encourages and promotes companies producing clean energy.

Update: This bill died because the Lt. Governor ruled that revenue neutral tax swaps would be subject to I-960 and require a 2/3 vote. We did not have enough votes to repeal the tax breaks for oil and coal. But in a surprising twist, the Legislature to pass a different bill, SSB 6170, that extends the renewable tax incentives.



Tolling (HB 2211)

To finance bridge replacements in the 520 and I-90 corridors implementation of tolling is sought. The Sierra Club sees that the vast majority of funds garnered from tolling should pay for the rebuilding, but believes that a sufficient amount could be used to fund increased mass transit – buses – in these corridors.

Update: Passed both the House and Senate; awaiting the Gov's signature. Funding for transit is coming in another bill, E2SSB 5433, which passed out of the Senate 25-24 on the final day. The Lt. Gov. had to cast the tie-breaking vote. Now awaiting the Gov's signature.



Reshape the Map (HB 2010)

The state's capital budget spends billions of dollars on infrastructure. Many times, these infrastructure projects push growth away from urban centers, encouraging sprawl, more driving, and increases in global warming pollution. This bill would help make sure that several state infrastructure programs spend money on projects that are consistent with the state's greenhouse gas reduction requirements.

Update: The bill passed the House, but died in the Senate Rules Committee. But, there is good news. The House amended the language from this bill onto SB 5560, and it passed both the House and Senate, and now awaits the Gov's signature.



Invest in Clean Water (HB 1614 / SB 5518)

This bill would raise new money for clean water infrastructure by imposing a fee on petroleum products that contribute to stormwater pollution. Petroleum is the largest contributor to stormwater pollution flowing into our waterways and this legislation will put pressures on those causing this contamination. This polluter-pays fee will be spent on stormwater projects throughout Washington State.

Update: Passed the House but died in the Senate.


Transit Oriented Communities (HB 1490 / SB 5687)

To create better cities and communities and manage growth in a sustainable and climate-friendly way, we have proposed legislation that creates incentives for local governments and developers for compact, walkable areas around transit stations that fight sprawl and provide low-income housing.

Update: Both the House and Senate versions of this bill are now dead.



Secure Medicine Return (HB 1165)

Right now, there is no safe convenient way to dispose of unused or leftover medications. This bill reduces risks of accidental poisonings, drug diversion, and contamination of surface and ground water by requiring drug producers to provide residents with a secure and convenient statewide program for disposing unwanted and left-over prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.

Update: The bill survived all the committees, but died awaiting a vote by the House. We appeared to have enough votes to pass the bill, but the clock ran out before the bill came up for a vote.



Washington State Legislative Session Archive:


For more information about our legislative priorities and how you can help support them, contact: Peter Orth, Chair of the Legislative Committee, at 425-442-4386, porthcpa@comcast.net or Craig Engelking, Sierra Club WA Legislative Director at 360-561-7701 or craig.engelking@sierraclub.org.