Last year, enjoying his first time in the majority in many years, Sen. Doug Ericksen cranked out thirty-six bills. This year, he is still going strong with twenty-two pieces of legislation covering a wide spectrum of topics.
As the chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment & Telecommunications, most of Ericksen’s legislation concerns energy and environmental concerns, but he has also proposed bills on debt, schools and a moose. As with my other legislative breakdowns (Sen. Ranker, Reps. Overstreet, Buys, Lytton and Morris), you can click on the bill number to see the actual text of the legislation.
Ericksen’s most complex bill this cycle cuts the renewable energy incentive program, tapering off the incentives over the next four years, capping payouts, and adding additional requirements to qualify (SB6541). Proponents say it streamlines the program, opponents say it slashes a vital green energy resource.
Similarly, he has proposed capping the fees the state collects from greenhouse gas emitters that fund our emissions tracking program (SB6264). Ericksen’s bill would reduce fees to 1/10th of what they were, but would leave the mandated tracking program in place, forcing the Department of Ecology to pull funds from other programs to make up the gap or shut it down in violation of state law.
Speaking of emissions, Ericksen proposed a bill that would allow anaerobic digestors and landfill gas collectors to still qualify for renewable energy credits even though they release carbon emissions (SB5408). This bill almost passed last year but died in the Senate.
In an effort to drum up support for more nuclear power in Washington, Ericksen has proposed a bill that would create a joint task force on nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuel facilities (SB5991). The task force, similar to the efforts of CLEW last summer, would meet and make recommendations by the end of this year.
Ericksen has proposed a number of legislative tweaks relating to environmental issues. He has proposed a bill that would expand the definition of “oil” for the purpose of transportation requirements (SB6243). He also wants to add a woody pulp as a potential biomass fuel (SB6021)
Last year, he created a new environmental fund named after his daughter Elsa, aptly named the Environmental Legacy Stewardship Account. This year, he is clarifying what those funds can and can’t be used for (SB5990).
He wants to count irrigation hydroelectricity toward renewable energy totals (SB5992) and allow public utility districts to “bank” conservation efforts in excess of their goals so they can be counted towards next year’s targets (SB6258).
Protection from Environmental Harm
Ericksen has put forward two bills that ban certain flame retardant chemicals in children’s mattresses, furniture and toys (SB5984 and SB6540). Last year, Ericksen used an illegal procedural move to shut down consideration of a very similar bill and then proposed a smaller, weaker version of that bill that only banned two of the six dangerous chemicals identified, and those two chemicals? No longer used in current manufacturing. This year, he has reintroduced the watered-down versions.
He has proposed a bill directing local governments to create a used oil recycling program (SB6501), and very relevant to our community, he has proposed a bill that would direct the Department of Ecology to study the dangers of shipping oil by railroad (SB6524). This would require a study be delivered by June 2016.
Schools and Debt
Ericksen has proposed two bills that would allow governments (SB5993) and schools (SB5994) to be exempted from sales tax on all construction if that construction is funded by debt issued by the government or school in question. In short, encouraging our local public entities to put it on the credit card to avoid the tax.
On an unrelated note, he is proposing a bill that would limit the number of late start/early release days for public and public charter schools to seven in one year (SB5982). Prompted by the shift in funding from the Mount Baker school district over the reconveyance, Ericksen is pushing a bill that would require revenue from federal forests to go directly to their local school districts and not get siphoned into the general education fund (SB5986).
Sen. Kevin Ranker and Ericksen are working together on a bill that would require SEPA permitting for cell phone towers (SB5098) and a bill that would let you keep your license plate until you sell your car (SB5785). New owner, new license plate.
In an interesting rural versus urban vein, Ericksen is proposing a bill (SB6263) that would block cities from imposing transportation mitigation fees for projects outside the city limits without the agreement of the governing municipality (most often, the county).
What that means is if someone wants to build, for example, a giant Costco just outside the Bellingham city limits, the city could not charge them a fee for all the extra traffic they are going to cause on City roads unless the County said it was okay.
I’ve already covered Ericksen’s efforts to block Futurewise’s court cases over exempt wells (SB5983), but he also proposed a bill that would allow certain raspberry farms to gain better water rights if they are using a microirrigation system (SB5199)
Yes, I promised you something about a moose. Thank you for hanging in there. Ericksen has proposed a bill that if you kill a big game animal that is the right size and age but wrong gender, you aren’t fined (SB6278), with the exception of Elk. I assume the giant horns on the Elk are a tipoff (see what I did there?) to the gender of the animal.
Phew, long article today. Next week, I’ll be doing a breakdown of what legislation died in committee and what is still stayin’ alive. Thank you to my supporters who have helped fund these legislative updates, and if you haven’t donated and want to chip in a few bucks, just click over here.