Today in Medford, OR, where my trailer-traveling wife and I are staying this week, the temperatures will reach 101°F today, 107 tomorrow, and 113 on Monday. I’d experienced 113 in Iraq, but not in the Pacific Northwest. Near here (Ashland, Talent, Butte Falls) fires swept last summer, burning hillsides and homes.
Greta Thunberg bluntly observed, regarding climate change, that hope is created through action. What heartens me during these hot, must-stay-inside days is that Washington State is taking action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and to lessen the impact of climate change damage, as is reported in this 25 June 2021 newsletter by Senator Christine Rolfes, the senator from my county of Kitsap. Her newsletter is pasted below:
Dear friends and neighbors,
Summer has arrived in the Northwest and with it the long, warm days to explore our great state and all its natural wonders. We are also experiencing extreme heat early in the season, creating anxiety about the threat of wildfire and other impacts to our ecosystems. In this newsletter, I’ll highlight a few of the major environmental policies passed by the 2021 Legislature to address climate change and invest in a healthier, more sustainable future.
Climate Action and Environmental Justice
Washington has adopted some of the strongest policies in the nation designed to grow our economy with clean energy jobs at a lower carbon footprint. I was proud to vote for policies that will address the threats posed by climate change and support the disproportionally impacted communities.
- SB 5126, the Climate Commitment Act, creates a cap-and-invest carbon reduction system. For the first time, it places a firm cap on statewide carbon and reduces that cap over time to meet science-based targets in 2050. It generates resources to invest in clean transportation projects, green jobs, air quality improvements and equity for disproportionally impacted communities.
- HB 1091, targets the state’s largest source of emissions, the transportation sector, by creating a Clean Fuel Standard. This new program will achieve a 20 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2038 by incentivizing use of biofuels, electric vehicle infrastructure, battery storage and other clean energy innovations.
- SB 5141, the HEAL Act, addresses environmental health disparities among communities disproportionally impacted by pollution. The bill embeds environmental justice principles in state agencies and public investments.
Wildfire Prevention and Suppression
The average annual acreage burned in Washington wildland fires has increased ten-fold over the past three decades. House Bill 1168, when combined with a biennial budget allocation of $130 million, greatly increases our investments in forest health, wildfire prevention, and wildfire response by creating a dedicated account for funding. The goal is to establish healthier forests that are more resistant to wildfires by removing sick and dead trees and years of brushy undergrowth on the forest floor. Crews will also create space in the forest canopies so fires cannot spread from tree to tree so easily. Much of this work will be performed by teams recruited locally from traditionally marginalized communities. The bill also calls for the state to modernize its fire-fighting equipment and get rid of outdated tools. DNR’s forest-mapping will also be improved, enhancing preparedness and responsiveness to wildfires.
The Legislature also passed House Bill 1216 to expand the state’s urban and community forestry program. It will focus on helping provide relief to “heat islands” in our most urban neighborhoods by working with communities to plant and sustain tree cover.
Parks and Outdoor Learning
As the lead budget writer in the Senate, I was proud to make a historic investment in our state parks. Over the last year, our parks offered a safe place to recreate, reflect and heal during a very difficult time. As a result, attendance numbers are up across the state. The two-year budget includes an additional $19 million to keep our parks fully staffed and open to the public.
The Legislature also tripled funding for the “No Child Left inside” program to fund grants connecting underserved youth to nature. Another $375,000 for the Recreation and Conservation Office will fund an equity review for all grants programs and $4 million in the Capital Budget will provide outdoor recreation equity grants.
As our summer season begins here in Kitsap, I hope you can spend some time outdoors enjoying our beautiful parks and beaches — and remember to stay ‘Whale Wise’. I’ll continue to update you on major legislation from this year’s session in the coming weeks. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Christine.Rolfes.leg.wa.gov.