Lawmakers follow cities’ lead on green measures

  • By Alexis Bacharach Enterprise editor
  • Thursday, May 1, 2008 2:24pm

If a Sustainability Strategy is adopted by the city of Shoreline in June it will be the result of current efforts by city staff and consultants to develop an overarching strategy to encourage waste reduction, sustainable development and green infrastructure throughout the city.

“It is intended to achieve overarching change in the city, not to fix one or two things,” associate city planner Juniper Nammi said at a council meeting on April 14. “If we figure out a piece doesn’t work we can change it. We’re not trying to replace existing mechanisms but modify and include sustainability in the original thinking.”

The Strategy is meant to provide the tools and framework for the city to incorporate sustainable, green practices into city operations as well as provide leadership for individual owners of businesses and households to work toward their own sustainable goals. It is part of the council’s 2007-2008 work plan goal to “Create an Environmentally Sustainable Community.”

Residents from Lake Forest Park are also paying close attention to how Shoreline’s proposed Sustainability Strategy shapes up.

“I hope Lake Forest Park can use a lot of the information you’ve put together,” Steve Plusch, of Lake Forest Park, told council during public comment period on April 14.

Environmental issues, of course, have become something everybody wants to be a part of. Even, not surprisingly, the state politicians in Olympia.

While lawmakers hammer out legislation to reduce and regulate pollution in Washington, local communities already are taking steps to soften their impact on the environment.

“Being green is no longer just trendy, it’s a revolution,” Mill Creek Community Development director Bill Trimm said. “We know we need to be more conscious about the environment as we go about our daily lives. We know we have to make changes.”

It wasn’t a state mandate that led to Mill Creek’s tree retention ordinance. Likewise, city leaders recently included language in the comprehensive plan to encourage sustainable development because it was the will of Mill Creek residents — not state lawmakers, Trimm said.

The Legislature passed several laws this session aimed at reducing pollution and improving air quality. House Bill 2815 — in addition to regulating emissions from the state’s top polluters — calls for a system of rewarding and compensating businesses and local governments that reduce carbon gas emissions through investments in alternative energy sources and other innovations.

The directors of the state Department of Ecology and the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development have until Dec. 1 to give lawmakers their recommendations on a greenhouse gas cap and trade program — how to design and implement this market-based system by 2012 in cooperation with British Columbia, Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon and other states within the Western Climate Initiative.

The system would establish a cap on emissions and a formula for allocating credits to businesses, local governments and other entities. Participants could then buy, sell or trade credits in a regional, multi-sector market.

Lawmakers are hopeful that a cap and trade program — by making it profitable to cut emission levels — will encourage innovation in reducing air pollution.

There is some debate over fairness and whether or not credits should be allocated retroactively to organizations that have already taken steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“That’s a stumbling block for some of us,” HB2815 sponsor Rep. Hans Dunshee said. “You want to acknowledge those groups that are leading the way, but the whole idea is to encourage people to do more to reduce emissions. For example, the automakers were arguing with us, because we passed legislation requiring more fuel efficient cars. That they should get credit for that is absurd.”

“You don’t want to pay someone for something they’re already doing,” he added.

The gathering storm nationwide around green living and energy efficient products — hybrid vehicles, Energy Star appliances, organic produce and the like — suggest the Legislature is behind the curve.

Millions of people are making business and lifestyle changes every day without promise of compensation or reimbursement from the government.

“That’s what the market wants,” Mill Creek City Manager Tim Burns said of trends in eco-friendly policy and merchandising.

Talk to us