Climate Change & GMA Bill Revived

Never say die while the legislature still meets. Thursday, the House Local Government Committee voted against ESSB 6580 dealing with climate change and the Growth Management Act.

Alas, all is not lost for poor old ESSB 6580. It has been given new life. After some behind the scenes work an agreement was reached. The bill was amended and passed out to the House Appropriations Committee. Representative Deb Eddy (D-48, Kirkland) brokered the compromise agreement.

Also, after working the committee leadership an architect was added to the study committee.

Here is a quick summary:

Section 2: Requires CTED to develop advisory climate change response methodologies, computer programs and estimates to be made available to local governments

Section 3: Pilot project for up to 3 counties and 6 cities that are addressing climate change through land use and transportation planning.

Section 4: Requires CTED to prepare report on the actions of cities and counties to address climate change issues, recommendations for changes to planning statutes, descriptions of computer modeling on greenhouse gas emissions, assessment of state/local resources to implement recommendations on climate change mitigation and additional funding for such purposes. This section also establishes an advisory policy committee to assist the department with the tasks of the bill. Among the non-voting ex-officio members is “one member representing an association of architects.”

Section 5: This section gives safe harbor from lawsuits to those counties and cities participating in the pilot program created in Section 3.

One concern left with the bill is that while it provides protections for cities and counties in the pilot study, the lawsuit immunities were not extended to the climate change response methodologies and modeling. The study and pilot projects should encourage innovation in the development of performance standards and not in developing rote requirements that stifle innovation. The threat of lawsuits over climate change planning under the GMA will hamper creative solutions and only serve to prolong the planning process. Providing a safe harbor for cities and counties trying to mitigate climate change is a wise policy and will benefit the environment more than unproductive, lengthy and costly litigation.

AIA/WA will continue to work to perfect the bill as it moves forward.

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