Environment

New legislation could update Growth Management Act

'This policy will help to ensure that our development is sustainable'
January 11, 2023 at 5:52 p.m.
Whatcom Creek floods over its banks at Maritime Heritage Park on Nov. 15, 2021. New legislation would add a goal to the state's Growth Management Act and address adverse impacts of extreme weather events.
Whatcom Creek floods over its banks at Maritime Heritage Park on Nov. 15, 2021. New legislation would add a goal to the state's Growth Management Act and address adverse impacts of extreme weather events. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

By JULIA LERNER
Staff Reporter

New legislation introduced in both houses of the Washington state Legislature could update the state’s planning framework in order to combat climate change, urban sprawl and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The legislation, introduced by 40th Legislative District Sen. Liz Lovelett and 1st Legislative District Rep. Davina Duerr, would establish a new climate resiliency goal in the state’s Growth Management Act

The act is a series of statutes and laws initially adopted in 1990, designed to help cities and counties manage population growth through transportation, affordable housing, environmental protection and industry goals, among others. Currently, the act features 14 goals, but the legislation — Senate Bill 5203 and House Bill 1181 — would add another goal related to climate resiliency.

“This bill is an important step forward for local governments to plan ahead and be prepared for the challenges posed by climate change,” Lovelett said in a news release. “Our state has long been a leader on climate action, and this policy will help to ensure that our development is sustainable, that our communities and infrastructure are resilient, and that we are protecting our open spaces and quality of life for future generations to enjoy.”

The bill, Lovelett and Duerr said in the release, would increase housing capacity in urban areas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution in historically impacted communities and address adverse impacts of extreme weather events across the state. 

In addition to targeting greenhouse gas emissions, the bill also targets urban sprawl into undeveloped, agricultural areas and supports local industries, including timber and fisheries. 

The bill was introduced at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee, who has made combating climate change one of the major tenets of his incumbency. 

“One of the most important ways to protect communities from the impacts of climate change and to reduce overall emissions is to plan for it,” Inslee said in the news release. “Last session we came incredibly close to passing a version of this bill. I hope this is the year we can finish the job. Fully addressing climate change will require intentional and cooperative action at all levels of government.”

The legislation includes funding mechanisms, technical assistance and additional resources for local governments to plan and update their existing regulations to meet new requirements.

“This is about protecting our homes and businesses from floods, wildfires and droughts while reducing greenhouse gasses,” Duerr said. “Housing, transportation, and energy use are all related to how we plan — or fail to plan. When we do it right, it saves taxpayer money and creates a healthier, more sustainable state for all of us.”

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