We have a lot of exciting news to share so today’s newsletter is longer than usual. Washington’s 2023 legislative session concluded over the weekend, and we are celebrating some major wins for clean energy, equity, and our climate. Meanwhile, we’re making noise down in Salem and enjoying strong support for our priority bills.
Washington Ends Strong
A lot of our wins in Washington came in the form of “budget provisos,” which are line-items in the state budget that fund programs administered by state agencies. We are thrilled to see the state committing over $150 million to these equity-centricefficiency programs:
$40M for “Weatherization Plus Health,” a time-tested program that helps low-income families repair and weatherize their homes. Many Washingtonians live in homes that are structurally compromised, not properly insulated, and/or contain toxic mold – all threats to our health that also make it impossible to install electric heat pumps.
$80M to low- and moderate-income households and small businesses to purchase and install heat pumps and other clean electric appliances, which cut energy use and keep Washingtonians safe and healthy through extreme weather.
$35M for energy bill assistance and energy assessments, which will help reduce energy burden statewide and provide protection from any future rate hikes.
$250,000 for the Department of Commerce to start designing a statewide energy efficiency “navigator” program that will help Washingtonians take advantage of new state and federal funding for energy efficiency. Renters and owners in low-income, BIPOC, and otherwise overburdened communities will be prioritized in the program’s design and administration.
As far as individual bills go in Washington:
We’re celebrating the passage of the aptly named HB 1329, “Preventing utility shutoffs for nonpayment during extreme heat,” which will ensure that financial hardship isn’t a barrier to life-saving air conditioning during our state’s increasingly common heat waves.
We made progress on our two priority bills this year. Both bills received public hearings, and strong relationships were formed with key elected leaders and coalition members. This paves the way for continuous equitable, clean energy advocacy next year.
We’re sending thank you cards to our legislators, and we encourage you to do the same!
Spark Northwest is an active member of two coalitions in Oregon:Building Resilience, which is pushing for a package of bills that will support an equitable transition to all-electric homes and buildings, andCommunity Resilience Hubs, which is working to create a program that will keep communities safe and healthy before, during, and after climate-driven disasters.
Policies coming from these two coalitions are our top priorities during this session. We and our allies are working around the clock to ensure that the Joint Ways and Means Committee votes to pass and fully fund our bills.
Earlier this month the Joint Ways and Means Committee hosted a public hearing in Portland and selected our Policy Manager to testify in support. You can watch the testimony below, beginning at minute 39:55.
Last week the Building Resilience coalition held a grassroots lobby day in Salem and received a great deal of praise from legislators.
Recently, the Community Resilience Hubs coalition turned out its community and coalition members to meet with nearly 30 legislators in person and virtually to discuss our bill and answer questions.
We’re excited to see what comes from this advocacy. We know how closely tied Oregon and Washington are in terms of progressive legislation so what happens in one state greatly influences the other.
A lot of our staff eat healthy and climate-friendly diets with lots of vegetables and low to moderate amounts of meat – and our policy manager is no exception. But when he’s driving back to Portland after a long day in Salem and eating on the company dollar, he likes to end the day on a high note. And for John, that means a Northwest Cheeseburger, Parmesan Truffle Fries, and a Hazelnut Chocolate Bliss Shake from Burgerville!
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