Years in the making, one climate bill is allowing legislators to boldly reinvent transportation in Washington. Here’s how.

Gov. Jay Inslee is quick to seize any opportunity to pitch the urgency of climate change.

He’s just as passionate when in meetings with global leaders as when dropping in on a college classroom or bending ears outside a convenience store. He wrote a book 15 years ago about how to build the nation’s clean energy economy and remains every bit as bullish now as he scribbles notes on briefing documents from his staff.

The third-term governor has pursued ambitious policies that some influential voices doubted but have come to fruition in recent years including the nation’s most ambitious 100% clean electricity policy and a nation-leading clean buildings policy. He’s long promoted rapid electric vehicle adoption and made Washington a leading clean tech hub thanks in part to the launch of a state Clean Energy Fund and the Clean Energy Institute at University of Washington.

And this year, his climate action efforts are coming full circle in a big way.

Climate Commitment Act reinvests the price of carbon pollution to pay for climate-friendly transportation programs

Legislators this session approved a 16-year “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package unlike any other in the state’s history. It lays the foundation for a massive shift from simply building more lanes to moving people via cleaner, more efficient transportation options.

“Transportation is our state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. There is no way to talk about climate change without talking about transportation,” Inslee said during the Friday morning signing event for the package. “This package will move us away from the transportation system our grand-parents imagined and towards the transportation system our grand-children dream of.”

A key to the new package? The state’s new cap-and-invest program, created after passage of Inslee’s Climate Commitment Act last year. Inslee first introduced such a policy to the Legislature in 2014.

Washington’s transportation spending is largely funded by the state’s gas tax and state vehicle license fees. The state constitution dictates these revenues can only be spent on highways and highway-related programs.

Cap-and-invest revenue, however, is specifically directed to non-highway projects and programs that reduce climate pollution. The policy also emphasizes equity. At least 35 percent of funds must go towards serving overburdened and marginalized communities.

“Thanks to the Climate Commitment Act passed last year, our cap-and-invest program is providing billions of dollars that we can use to equitably turn the cost of carbon pollution into low- and no-carbon transportation options,” Inslee said. “This is a plan that finally allows us to build for our future.”

Sen. Marko Liias and Rep. Jake Fey chair the Legislature’s transportation committees and led negotiations for Move Ahead Washington. They share the governor’s vision of equitably promoting electrification and significantly expanding options for transit, walking and cycling. Sen. Reuven Carlyle sponsored last year’s Climate Commitment Act legislation.

The governor is seated at a table outdoors where he just signed several bills. A large crowd of people are smiling behind him with their hands in the air making the symbol for Number One! There is a large ferry in the background.
Gov. Jay Inslee joins in celebration with attendees and speakers of the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal bill signing event. He was joined by bill sponsors Sen. Marko Liias, Sen. Joe Nguyen, Rep. Jake Fey, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Rep. Alex Ramel and Rep.Davina Duerr. Tulalip Tribes Chair-elect Misty Napeahi and WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar provided welcoming remarks.

The Move Ahead Washington package focuses an increased share of funding on maintenance and preservation of existing roads and bridges than prior packages, and includes major projects such as the replacement of the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River. But the clear distinction is how it directs a significant share of investments towards transit, safe bike and pedestrian facilities, electrification of ferries and cars, and other non-highway programs.

The Move Ahead Washington transportation package has 6 times the amount of spending for climate and clean transportation than the previous transportation package.

The largest share of Move Ahead Washington goes towards climate and clean transportation. The package includes funding for four new hybrid-electric ferries, tens of thousands of new EV charging stations, 25 transit electrification projects across the state, and free fares for passengers 18 and younger on all public transportation.

The package also includes a significant infusion of funding for removing hundreds of fish passage barriers along state highways that block approximately 650 miles of habitat for salmon and steelhead. This work is important to meeting the state’s salmon recovery commitment to Tribes.

Move Ahead Washington will support an estimated 2,390 construction and ferries jobs annually.

Graphic with several bullets describing the benefits of the Move Ahead Washington transportation package including preservation of roads and bridges, replacing the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River, hybrid electric ferries and EV charging stations, fixes for fish passage barriers, free transit for Washingtonians 18 and under, and planning for high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver, B.C.

The clean energy future can and will be built in Washington state

Among the bills Inslee signed on Friday are several that support the continued growth of Washington state’s clean energy sector. Inslee and legislators advanced policies that promote strong labor standards, protections for overburdened communities, and Tribal rights.

Graphic with text describing 2022 session successes on climate and clean energy. Successes include ability to implement clean fuels standard, investments in ferries and transit, expansion of clean buildings policy, reducing methane emissions from landfills, improved ability to recruit clean energy projects, and expansion of solar projects in low-income communities.

Inslee’s request legislation improves the state’s one-stop siting process for clean energy. This bill modernizes the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council so it can better support clean energy projects, with up front work and community engagement to site the right project, in the right location, with a more predictable timeline.

In addition, legislators approved the governor’s budget office’s request for expanded tax incentives for clean tech manufacturing, energy storage projects, and additional clean energy sources tied to the strong labor standards first developed under the state’s 100% clean electricity law. The bill will incentivize developers to include high labor standards and hire union workers.

Also on Friday, the governor signed bills that expand the state’s clean buildings policy to include buildings over 20,000 square feet, ensure cleaner, more energy-efficient state buildings, reduce methane emissions from landfills, prevent methane emissions by diverting organic material and food waste from being sent to landfills, and update the Climate Commitment Act.

Though the bill wasn’t part of Friday’s bill signing, the governor will soon be signing one of his request bills that improves government-to-government consultation with Tribes on Climate Commitment Act investments. The bill is a result of a year of work involving the governor’s office, legislators and leaders from Tribes around the state. He’ll also be signing bills that significantly expand access to solar power projects on community buildings and in low-income communities.

Climate & Transportation Bills Signing Events | Flickr

The governor poses with a large crowd of people outdoors. They are smiling at the camera and standing under a large Pierce Transit sign.
Gov. Jay Inslee joins with attendees and speakers at the bill signing event at Pierce Transit’s Tacoma Dome Station.
The governor is seated at a table outdoors signing a bill. Behind him are four men who are watching and smiling. They are under a large Pierce Transit sign.
Gov. Jay Inslee signing HB 1934, which strengthens Tribal exchange agreements. Pictured behind the governor from left to right is Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Rep. Jake Fey, Chairman of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians Bill Sterud, and Sen. Marko Liias.

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News and updates from Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and his administration.

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Governor Jay Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee

Governor of Washington state. Writing about innovation, jobs, education, clean energy & my grandkids. Building a WA that works for everyone.

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