For the fourth session in a row, the legislature considered adding requirements for local governments to address the causes and impacts of climate change to the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA). This week, E2SHB 1181 was finally approved by both chambers.

Under the bill, a new goal to address climate change is added to the GMA, along with a new required element for comprehensive plans. The new element includes two new sub-elements. The first, the greenhouse gas emissions reduction sub-element, requires local governments to address the causes of climate change by including strategies in their comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) within their jurisdictions. The Department of Commerce is required to assist in this process by developing measures that local governments can take to reduce GHGs. Counties can choose from among the measures Commerce creates or adopt their own.

The second new sub-element, the resiliency sub-element, requires comprehensive plans to include strategies for avoiding or substantially reducing the adverse impacts of climate change. The resiliency sub-element requirements are designed to work collaboratively with local government FEMA-compliant natural hazards mitigation plans. Natural hazards mitigation plans that also meet the requirements of the resiliency sub-element can be adopted by reference to meet a county’s obligations to achieve GMA compliance.

E2SHB 1181 also includes changes to the required land use, capital facilities, utilities, and transportation elements of comprehensive plans for counties planning under the GMA. There are additional updates to the GMA’s planning goals for transportation, open space and recreation, and citizen participation. Along with addressing climate change, many of the new requirements address equity and environmental justice issues.

The new planning requirements apply differently to different counties. Only 11 counties are mandated to meet the new greenhouse gas emissions reduction sub-element and the updates to the transportation element for comprehensive plans. Those counties include:

  • Benton
  • Clark
  • Franklin
  • King
  • Kitsap
  • Pierce
  • Skagit
  • Snohomish
  • Spokane
  • Thurston
  • Whatcom

The changes to the land use element apply to all GMA-planning counties with over 20,000 in population. The rest of the bill applies to all counties planning under the GMA.

Funding is provided for the implementation of E2SHB 1181. The funding is in addition to the resources that counties will already receive for updating their comprehensive plans. Larger counties should receive about $675,000 if they are required to comply with all parts of the bill. Others will receive between $165,000 and $300,000, depending on the population.

The bill is headed to the Governor for signature as the final step before becoming law. The funding also still needs to be approved in the final State Operating Budget, but counties won’t have to comply if the resources aren’t provided.

Policy Contact:
Paul Jewell
WSAC, Policy Director