100% Clean Electricity Legislation Passes Washington State Senate in Historic Vote

March 1, 2019 — Today, the Washington State Senate voted to transition Washington to 100 percent clean electricity by 2045 on a 28-19 vote. This is the first of a suite of critical bills to address climate pollution to move this year.

Editor’s Note: This news release was published by the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), of which Audubon Washington is a member. The EPC is made up of more than 20 statewide organizations working to safeguard our environment and the health of our communities. For the 2019 legislative session, the EPC has adopted four priorities essential for healthy communities and a thriving environment, including support for 100% clean electricity.

Statement from Gail Gatton, Executive Director of Audubon Washington: Today’s historic vote reflects Audubon’s longstanding advocacy for bold climate action and support for policies that protect birds and people from climate change. It also reflects the grassroots energy of our 35,000 dedicated members in Washington State to build the political power required to pass bold climate action now. We are counting on our elected officials to take the necessary action to keep our birds, residents, and communities healthy and safe from a changing climate. A 100 percent clean energy future is, simply put, the right thing to do.”
SB 5116 will phase-out coal power by 2025, address inequities in electricity sector, and transition Washington State to 100 percent clean electricity by 2045.

OLYMPIA — March 1, 2019 — Today, the Washington State Senate voted to transition Washington to 100 percent clean electricity by 2045 on a 28-19 vote. This is the first of a suite of critical bills to address climate pollution to move this year.

“The world is moving to a clean energy future and Washington State can lead in that transition by passing strong one hundred percent clean energy legislation,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (3rd LD). “This is a critical step towards addressing the worst impacts of climate change in the Pacific Northwest.”

“We owe it to Washingtonians now and the next generation to act boldly on climate. Strong and equitable legislation to move to one hundred percent clean electricity legislation would be a game-changer for Washington State, accelerating the closure of some of the most polluting coal plants in the American West. It’s time for Washington to rise up to this challenge,” said Senator Reuven Carlyle (36th LD), Chair of the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee and the prime sponsor of HB 5116.

There is diverse demand for a move to 100 percent clean grid, with groups representing working families, communities of color, the clean energy sector, medical professionals, conservation experts and small businesses from around the state all showing strong support for Senate Bill 5116.  The Environmental Priorities Coalition and the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy have both prioritized the passage of this policy in session.   The Washington State Labor Council, Electrical Workers and other unions expressed support for passage of the policy.

“The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO is committed to advancing good, equitable environmental policy that is also good labor policy,” stated Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council. “Building a 21st Century clean energy economy with good, family-wage union jobs is a priority for us and for our community partners. Strong one hundred percent policy should meet the needs of our environment, our communities and our workforce, and we are happy to support it.”

“One hundred percent clean electricity is a strong policy to cut carbon, while creating real family wage jobs, and more value for the clean energy we do have.  It also curtails the fossil fuels we still need to wean away from in the electrical industry,” stated Matthew Hepner, Executive Director of the Certified Electrical Workers of Washington.”

The legislation would:

  • Phase out of coal from our electricity grid by 2025, accelerating the closure of increasingly expensive coal plants in Montana and Wyoming that are among the largest sources of climate pollution in the American West;
  • Enact strong short-term interim emission reduction targets starting in 2030 that would prevent unnecessary and costly near-term build out of new fracked gas infrastructure in our electric grid — ensuring an orderly transition to clean electricity;
  • Invest in low-income communities to address historic energy inequities and inclusion of equity in the planning and acquisition of clean energy;
  • Increase investments in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency, adding more jobs to the state’s clean energy industries that already employ more than 82,000 Washingtonians – 13 times as many as fossil fuels.
  • Commit to powering Washington State’s entire electric grid with 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

The House of Representatives will now take up the bill, starting with an Environment Committee hearing as early as next week.

“As a son of an electrician, I take a lot of pride in Washington State leading in powering the grid with clean energy while creating more homegrown jobs,” said House Speaker Frank Chopp.  We are working to get it done.”

“One hundred percent clean electricity is the foundation to transitioning to a clean energy economy faster while addressing the climate crisis while we still have time.” stated Rep. Gael Tarelton (36th LD), the prime sponsor of a similar policy in the House of Representatives and a member of the House Environment Committee chaired by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon.  “I look forward to working with my colleagues as we continue to advance this needed policy,” she concluded.

This bill puts Washington on a path to help lead the nation in cleaning up our electricity grid. Already, California and Hawaii have put in place legislation and more than 100 cities across the country and iconic Washington businesses like REI, Starbucks, and Microsoft have committed to 100 percent clean electricity. According to a NW Energy Coalition analysis, energy efficiency and renewable energy standards have helped stabilize rates and achieve the second lowest average electric rate in the nation while creating tens of thousands of clean energy jobs.  

“Washington State families should be able to flip on the light switch and know that they’re helping to power a new clean economy,” said Rebecca Ponzio, 100% clean campaign director for the Environmental Priorities Coalition. “We look forward to working with the House of Representatives to get a bill to Governor Inslee that makes Washington a national leader in adopting bold, effective and equitable solutions needed to meet the scale of the crisis.”

“Communities on the front lines of climate change need clean energy as much as they need to keep the lights on,” said David Mendoza, Legislative & Government Affairs Director of Front and Centered, a coalition of more than sixty organizations rooted in communities of color. “We are proud that the one hundred percent clean electricity bill has one of the strongest equity provisions we’ve seen in environmental policy within the Legislature. By requiring all electric utilities to provide assistance to low-income households, including discounted rates and energy conservation, we are leading the way on clean energy through a just, effective transition.”

“The human health impacts of climate change, from heat-related illnesses to extreme weather and air pollution, are already being felt, especially by the most vulnerable among us,” said Dr. Mark Vossler, a cardiologist in Kirkland and President of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Moving to one hundred percent clean electricity would be a bold step to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis and move away from dirty fossil fuels, which physicians know will benefit health.”

This 100 percent clean electricity legislation is part of a complementary set of bold solutions to the climate crisis the Legislature is considering in their 2019 session.

A poll released last week by the Sierra Club found that 8 out of 10 Washington voters support moving to 100 percent clean energy by 2045, as this legislation would require. The results largely align with this fall’s post-election polling by Audubon Washington, Climate Solutions, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters that found two-thirds of Washingtonians support moving to 100 percent clean energy by 2045 and several national polls, including by the utilities, show strong ratepayer support for 100 percent clean electricity.

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