For years, Washington has grappled with a fundamental question about our future: Can we step up to the challenge of addressing climate change and will we do it in a way that invests in good local jobs and builds a better life for everyone in our state? We all deserve access to affordable clean energy, dignified work and a healthy place to live.
Polls indicate strong public support for this kind of action, but they want to know how we get there. This question has sparked pivotal election battles and a decades-long debate about how we can transition to a clean-energy future that includes all of us. This past week, state leaders answered this question with the most significant climate and clean-energy package in our state’s history.
Here’s what Gov. Jay Inslee, Sens. Reuven Carlyle and Rebecca Saldaña, and Reps. Joe Fitzgibbon, Kristine Reeves, Gael Tarleton, Beth Doglio and many others just passed for Washington:
- 100% clean energy for everyone in Washington by 2045. This is the strongest clean-electricity law in the nation. It removes all coal from our electricity supply by 2025, incentivizes energy efficiency to keep lowering customers’ bills, and maintains reliability during the transition away from fossil fuels.
- Cleaner, healthier buildings for our state. This includes putting in place energy-use requirements for large commercial buildings over 50,000 gross square feet, establishing conservation and efficiency requirements for natural-gas use in buildings, and requiring new buildings to be equipped and ready to charge electric vehicles.
- A first step toward adopting environmental-justice principles statewide. It establishes a new task force charged with developing strategies for how state agencies can discharge their responsibilities to address environmental-health disparities. The task force includes leadership from communities most impacted by pollution.
We know we cannot build a better future without addressing the reality that people of color and households with lower incomes bear the brunt of pollution’s worst impacts every day. And we must build a clean-energy economy that protects and invests in working families. The package of bills passed this year addresses these tough challenges head-on.
Here’s how these big wins get us there:
Tying clean energy investments to labor standards: The 100% clean energy law incentivizes livable wage and skilled labor practices by giving a sliding scale of tax incentives based to the company’s practices, including if they pay prevailing wage rates, use women, minority or veteran-owned businesses, hire workers living in the local area, and invest in skill development through apprenticeships. All of these practices both help the people doing the work and help ensure the clean economy of the future includes all of us.
These laws also require investments in home weatherization, energy-bill assistance, and investments in efficiency and conservation lowering customers’ bills and saving energy at the same time. This package will improve how our buildings are upgraded and built to be cleaner, healthier and better prepared for a changing economy. And it gives our state the tools we need to map health disparities so we can address the worst effects of pollution and invest in those communities that are hardest hit.
These victories didn’t come easy. We’ve debated at our kitchen tables, talked with our neighbors and even took this fight to the ballot box. Every step of the way, wealthy polluting industries have fought our progress and tried to hold Washington back. The wins we see this year are proof that when we ground ourselves in shared values, center everyday people in our work and never give up on our partnerships we can make real progress for the home we all share.
All of us deserve a healthy place for our families to live, a safe future for our kids and an economy that creates local jobs that are built to last and support a family. That’s exactly why the three of us are a part of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.
This coalition represents Washingtonians from every corner of our state and every walk of life. Health professionals, labor unions, community of color-led groups, environmental organizations, businesses, faith leaders and tribal nations have all come together because we know how hard it is to make real progress on climate change.
Washingtonians still suffer from asthma, heart disease and lung disease brought on by pollutants in our air; workers are exposed to poor air quality and extreme weather conditions; and our forests, salmon runs, and farmlands are declining from pollution and hotter, drier summers.
These problems aren’t going away and neither can we. All of us have to stand ready to fight for a cleaner, healthier, more-just future, together.