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Sierra Club's Washington State Legislative Priorities

This year's Legislature was another challenging and dangerous one for the Environment - Continued budget troubles threatened key environmental programs and a Republican Senate pushed policies that would set Environmental protections back decades. At the Sierra Club, we know that the environmental protections we rely on to protect our health and quality of life are also essential to a long-term sustainable economy. Our priorities reflect how vital strong environmental values are, especially in tough economic times.

  Our priorities for the  Legislature are:

Environmental Justice for All

Environmental justice communities in Washington bear a disproportionate burden from air, water and other pollution. Right now the Sierra Club is working on legislation to help these communities become meaningfully involved in key decision making on projects that threaten public health in those areas.  We will work to pass legislation that:

  • Requires State agencies to make Environmental Justice part of their mission
  • Allows for expanded public involvement in projects that impact public health
  • Provides funds to assist vulnerable communities to participate in the decision making process
  • Allows for settlements with polluters that include mitigation projects in affected communities

Protect I-937: Continue Bringing Investments, Clean Jobs, and Economic Development to Washington

Washington's Initiative 937, passed by voters in November 2006, requires the state's major utilities to gradually increase the amount of new renewable resources in their electricity supply to 15 percent by 2020. Electric utilities also must acquire all cost-effective energy efficiency in their service territories.  I-937 reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, protecting us from toxic pollution and volatile prices, and remains the most effective means of meeting our state's climate goals. We must continue its success in protecting our environment, economy, and the health of our families.

I-937 has generated over $7 billion in renewable energy investments in Washington, especially in our struggling rural communities, and all-time record efficiency savings for energy consumers. More investments, more savings, and more jobs will come to us as long as we keep the pathway open.

In these challenging economic times, I-937 is delivering economic development through energy efficiency and new renewable energy, along with the health and environmental benefits that come with those solutions.

Reducing Climate Impacts

Every year, the US is responsible for releasing nearly 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

As result we are experiencing unprecedented climate change around the world. Seven of the last nine years were the warmest on record, sea levels are rising, and many species, including salmon and Orca whales, are threatened. It is critical that we take action here in Washington State to help reverse these trends.

During the 2013 Washington State Legislative Session, Sierra Club will work with Environmental Priorities Coalition to promote legislation to reduce energy consumption in our homes and promote the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

Protect our Limited Water Resources: Rivers and Aquifers

When the state legislature adopted the current water code many years ago, they recognized that without proper management of water withdrawals for groundwater and surface water, water shortages would result. In order to avoid this problem, they created a permit system which insured that the state reviewed each water right permit to determine if water was available. The code allowed for small withdrawals for residential use to be exempt.  Unfortunately, as water became scarce in many areas, some developers began to use the exempt well provision to provide water for large subdivisions, while many local governments ignored the need to evaluate water supplies.

The Sierra Club opposes bills that "guarantee" water supply to new development regardless of whether the resource is already overdrawn. Sierra Club also opposes bills that eliminate consideration of the environment, efficiency, and public values when water right decisions are made.

The Sierra Club supports bills that promote science-based water management such as groundwater monitoring, stream gauges, water usage meters and reporting, and efficiency standards that will help us prepare for the hydrologic challenges of climate change.

Adequately fund mass transit to provide transportation options and reduce health and environmental impacts

In Washington, transportation accounts for 45% of the total state-wide greenhouse gas emissions that create climate change. Better transit service provides more travel options in our communities so cars can be left at home - reducing air pollution, stormwater runoff, and climate change. Despite growing transit ridership in the last six years, overall transit funding is insufficient.

  • Local-option sales tax revenue, which accounts for 70% of transit operating funds, has plummeted since the Great Recession.
  • State support for transit systems since 2000 has amounted to less than 1% of the state transportation budgets.
  • Demand for public transit services will continue to increase as the population ages, overall population and employment grows, and highway tolling becomes more widely used.

 New revenue sources for transit are needed.  Sierra Club favors raising revenue according to the "polluter pays" principle, and supports flexible use of toll revenue to include funding of transit service.  Additionally, local option funding authority is needed  for local transportation infrastructure maintenance.

Sierra Club is opposed to funding for road projects that under current design will create sprawl, take money away from road and bridge maintenance, and increase transportation greenhouse gas production.

  • Maintenance of the existing road and bridge system needs to be funded without pouring money into new capacity.
  • Unfunded large projects create financial problems for the state transportation program and need reevaluation to make them financially affordable and decrease the environmental footprint .
  • Freight mobility needs can be met without causing sprawl through smarter targeted investments in key corridors and reduced project scope.

 

 

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EJ Leg fact sheet 1.28.2013.pdf206.73 KB
Water Resources fact sheet 1.28.2013.pdf276.35 KB
Climate Factsheet 1.28.2013.pdf349 KB
Transit fact sheet 2013.pdf463.85 KB