October Climate News: from Robin Briggs

Seattle

Mayor Herrell signed off on the Green New Deal Oversight Board’s spending plan for 2022.

City Council passed a new Parks Levy proposal. It includes these provisions:

  • Decarbonizing and establishing 6 community centers as resilience hubs for smoke & heat events as well as other emergencies. Half of all park buildings to be decarbonized by 2028.

  • Protected path on Lake Washington Blvd from Mount Baker to Seward Park, for people walking and rolling.

Mayor Herrell presented the draft 2023-2024 Budget. It transfers $95M from the JumpStart Payroll Tax Fund to the General Fund to cover shortfalls. This means that items funded out of the Payroll tax, including climate (Green New Deal), affordable housing and other initiatives will see cuts from what they would otherwise have received. But because this was to be the first year of full funding, there will still be more money for these initiatives than last year.  The Green New Deal, which was expecting at least $22M will receive $20M. It looks like much of the proposed spending follows the recommendations of the Green New Deal Oversight Board, but there are some big differences between the two proposals. In particular, it looks like these Green New Deal Oversight Board proposals are dropped in the draft budget:

  • Educational campaign for Green New Deal

  • One stop shop for heat pump and efficiency for residences

King County

Executive Dow Constantine presented the draft biennial budget to County Council, the environmental provisions are described here. They include:

  • $2.3M for a new Climate Office to “elevate the County’s commitment, coordination, and ability to deliver on climate action internally and in partnership with cities and regional partners”.

  • $460K for the Climate Equity Task Force

  • $223M for electrifying Metro buses and recharging infrastructure

  • $26.7M for charging infrastructure to electrify 50% of the County’s light-duty fleet by 2025.

  • $1M to expand the Energize program, which installs high efficiency heat pumps in homes in White Center and Skyway, to include solar panels.

  • $1.9M to provide private lenders more flexibility to offer better financing options to higher risk homeowners for home upgrades that also improve the environment (see below).

Executive Dow Constantine has proposed a new low interest loan program for homeowners to invest in heat pumps and other clean energy solutions. It is modeled on a program in Snohomish County, where the County puts aside Federal dollars to guarantee the loans. This opens up the loans to people who would not otherwise qualify, and it reduces the interest payments.

Puget Sound Regional Council

Data report on growth and transit presented to the Executive Board. The Region is running slightly ahead of predicted growth from 2018-2022, with Seattle responsible for 38% of the overall growth, with 70% of the growth in metro, core, or in high capacity transit communities. Over the same period, growth in housing has not kept up. So from 2018-2022, we have been growing our housing deficit further. Transit ridership is at 55% of forecast in 2021, and single occupancy vehicle commute trips are also down, due to prevalence of work from home.

State

The State Building Code Council is holding hearings on the draft residential building codes, which would require most new residential homes to use heat pumps for space and water heating. Hearings are on Sept. 29 and Oct.

The State’s Commercial Aviation Commission is moving ahead on a new airport in Western Washington. They have identified potential sites in Pierce and Thurston Counties, and will make a single choice by June 2023. “In addition to recommending a new primary commercial aviation facility, the commission will recommend additional ways to accommodate capacity needs at other facilities.”

Federal

Amtrak restarted service from Seattle to Vancouver. Service was suspended in 2020 for the pandemic.

Some good references out now on the new clean energy programs for homeowners in the Inflation Reduction Act. Rewiring America released a calculator you can use to see what benefits you will be eligible for. And the ACEEE issued a report on Home Energy Upgrade Incentives.