One of the big, trending topics in Olympia this year is the environment. After years of divided control, Democrats now hold the majority in both chambers of the Legislature. And environmental activists see an opportunity to pass a number of new laws. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins shares what’s on the agenda in his weekly chat with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
A number of factors are driving the focus on the environment this year, Jenkins said.
“This is the first year that Democrats have really had governing majorities in both chambers since Gov. Inslee took office in 2013,” he said. “Inslee’s another factor. He’s made reducing carbon emissions a top priority since he was elected. Now he’s running for president on a platform of combating climate change — so he’s putting a lot of muscle into this issue this year.”
Then there’s the plight of the Southern Resident orcas, he added.
Specifics in these environmental proposals include a suite of measures: moving to a clean-electricity grid by 2045, imposing a low-carbon fuel standard similar to those in California and Oregon, and eliminating hydrofluorocarbons or what Inslee calls “super-pollutants” from things like aerosols and refrigerants.
“Inslee also has a proposal to retrofit existing commercial buildings to reduce their carbon footprint and beef up energy standards for new buildings,” Jenkins said. “And, finally, he’s got a proposal to continue to incentivize electric vehicle use.”
Currently, the governor’s climate agenda appears to be moving through the Legislature mostly intact, Jenkins said.
“Of all of the proposals, the one that seems like it has the most friction is the low-carbon fuel standard,” he said. “There’s concern it will drive up the cost of a gallon of gas. The oil and gas industry is very opposed to it. It will be interesting to watch that one to see if it can get through to the very end. It’s passed the House and has a hearing in the state Senate today.”
As for orca recovery, Jenkins says almost anything Puget Sound related is being cast as an orca recovery bill. Listen to the full conversation above for the status of those proposals, as well as information the HEAL Act and more.