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Our Frontline Perspective on the 2024 Legislative Session

Group of advocates standing in the marble halls of the Capitol building in Olympia outside of a hearing.
Group of advocates standing in the marble halls of the Capitol building in Olympia outside of a hearing.

With the 2024 legislative session now behind us, it’s time to debrief and reflect on how our environmental justice priorities fared!

This update will be comprehensive and cover not just Front and Centered priority legislation, but also our partners’ priorities. We’ll also take some time to look ahead to the legislative interim, as well as the upcoming general election in November and its impact on the 2025 session.

With that let’s get into the 2024 legislative session:


This year Front and Centered led with the Cumulative Risk Burden (CURB) Pollution Act. We witnessed overwhelming support for our legislation aimed at integrating environmental justice into the permitting and siting procedures and we extend our heartfelt gratitude to the partners and member organizations who officially endorsed our campaign and thousands of individuals who took action by reaching out to lawmakers and signing in support of CURB.

While the bill did not pass this session we look forward to working with Representative Sharlett Mena and Senator Liz Lovelett to introduce this legislation again for the 2025 legislative session.

We hope to see you at our CURB campaign events and count on your support again during the legislative interim! Make sure to sign up for email updates and keep up to date on our CuRB Pollution Act campaign. See media coverage about CURB in The Seattle Times and PRISM Reports

The Budget(s)

As mentioned in previous updates, our top budget priority for this session was adjustments and accountability to our state budget—specifically, ensuring that the state legislature met its obligation to fund overburdened communities and ensure that those investments lead to a reduction in health disparities among populations disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution.

While we aim to provide as much information as possible, the budget is dense and difficult to digest so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. The Climate Commitment Act (CCA) has generated over $3.3 billion dollars so far and it’s easy to get lost in what that dollar figure means and what impacted communities will be able to feel on the ground. As you read through our analysis, hear from other sources, and do your own research, keep in mind that at Front and Centered, as much as we welcome funding frontline communities, we want to see:

1) improvements to community health,

2) meaningful reduction in exposure to pollution and its impacts,

3) resilience to the effects of climate change, extreme heat and cold, etc., and

4) assistance for low-income residents and communities who can’t be left behind in the transition off fossil fuels and the extractive economy.

Our preliminary analysis shows that only 15% of Climate Commitment Act funds are clearly directed to vulnerable populations or overburdened communities in this year’s supplemental budget, well below the 40% goal. Another 7% were related expenses, but not not direct and meaningful benefits to overburdened as legally required. The request to the legislature this year was to make funding to overburdened communities explicit.* If budgets fail to explicitly allocate funds to overburdened communities, we cannot be certain that these communities, which are most in need, will receive the crucial investments they require to weather the climate crisis that looms over all of us.

We aim for Washington to exceed the minimum requirement rather than simply meeting it. In California, 73% of that program’s revenue is dedicated to frontline communities. Our advocacy in 2025 will continue to push the legislature to meet their goal to fund frontline communities and seek meaningful improvements to community health.

The good news is that there were new investments to community outreach and climate resilience through the funding of the Community Assemblies initiative and the creation of Clean Energy Grants. 

While we saw some positive investments, we are concerned that the state legislature is not yet meeting its obligation to fund overburdened communities as required by the Healthy Environment For All (HEAL) Act and by the CCA.

You can expect a longer budget analysis by Front and Centered later, but for now we wanted to focus on some key highlights and opportunities for improvement in the state budgets, including the capital, transportation, and operating budgets.

See media coverage of our advocacy around the budget, CCA, and linkage in Grist, KNKX (NPR), The Seattle Times, and High Country News.

Pending Action

Bills passed by the state legislature are on their way to the Governor’s desk or have already been signed into law. One bill headed to the Governor’s desk causes some concern for us.

HB 1589 requires Puget Sound Energy to plan for the transition off gas. While Front and Centered supports the spirit of the bill we are joining other low-income and energy assistance organizations in requesting a veto on HB 1589, specifically on section 7. Pasted below is an excerpt from a letter signed by Front and Centered, Sierra Club, WA Community Partnership, 350 WA, WA Budget and Policy Center, and others requesting that Governor Jay Inslee veto section 7:

“We are concerned that Section 7 requires the UTC to approve accelerated depreciation for investments in existing gas infrastructure by 2050. This will lead to significant short-term rate increases which will have a disproportionate impact on low and moderate-income households without corresponding commitments from the utility to retire gas infrastructure to meet climate targets and save customers money.”

In other words, allowing rate increases without any infrastructure changes actually taking place. As of this update, the Governor has not signed HB 1589 into law.

Pending Governor’s Signature
  • Linkage of Carbon Markets: The legislature advanced this bill and it’s headed to the Governor’s desk. This doesn’t mean that linkage is now in place but the Department of Ecology will push to create a linkage agreement with California and Quebec. Before that happens though, the linkage agreement must go through an Environmental Justice Assessment. Our take is that linkage would only accelerate and accentuate our concerns with the Washington carbon market, including the unequal distribution of environmental benefits and burdens, slower carbon emissions reductions, and reduced accountability to local communities.
Not Advancing in 2024
  • The Wrap Act (HB 2049): Unfortunately this bill did not advance this session. Sponsors of the bill are seeking to push the bill for a third time during the 2025 legislative session.
  • Transit Justice (HB 2191): Unfortunately this bill did not advance out of its last committee. Our partners at Disability Rights Washington will be providing more information on this bill and looking to push this again in 2025. As a quick reminder, this bill would have added two transit riders representing the community to the governing body of public transportation benefit areas.
  • Transit-Oriented Development (HB 2160): Despite this bill advancing out of the House of Representatives, it did not advance out of the Senate.
  • WA Green Amendment: This is the second year that Representative Lekanoff pushed this bill and the second year it does not advance. A constitutional amendment is a major lift to pass in the state legislature. Front and Centered will continue to support this initiative.
What to Keep an Eye on for the 2025 Legislative Session, and During the Interim

The November General Election looms over the interim and the 2025 legislative session. With three initiatives appearing on the ballot, one-third of the State Senate and the entire House of Representatives up for election, plus the Governor of Washington and the President of the United States on the line it will be a very busy campaign season. Much of what happens in November will dictate the legislature’s agenda for the 2025-27 biennium.

One of the initiatives going to the ballot this fall is I-2117, which would repeal the Climate Commitment Act. We oppose the repeal initiative, I-2117.

The Front and Centered coalition and our members have a record of leadership in fighting for healthy communities and the type of investments that are reflected in these laws, including co-creating and co-leading the campaign for I-1631, the Protect Washington Act, and also opposing false promises, including I-732 and the use of a carbon trading markets as a climate strategy.

We will never sacrifice communities’ well-being in order to tap into the political power of corporate polluters, and we will continue to shine light on the Climate Commitment Act’s deeply problematic pollution trading provisions that favor those polluters.

However, we oppose the effort to repeal a law that’s been extremely successful in bringing in revenue for climate investments that can be used in communities that need it the most.

In addition to the ballot initiatives many members of the state legislature are up for reelection this November. Shaking this election up is the number of legislators, Democrats and Republicans, who are retiring, i.e. not seeking reelection. At current count, over a dozen legislators will not be returning next session. You can learn more about who is retiring and who is seeking higher office in this KING5 news piece.

Environmental justice and a Just Transition are growing priorities for lawmakers, statewide officials, and organizations across the state. As more people learn about environmental justice and build climate legislation around these efforts, it’s increasingly important that we hold elected officials accountable to the values of racial justice, community participation, and community health.

Again, we thank you for your support and look forward to working with our community members and partners in developing our priorities for the 2025 legislative session.

* Front and Centered specifically requested that the following language be inserted into budget line items that impacted overburdened communities: “at least 35% of funds must benefit vulnerable populations and overburdened communities as defined in RCW 70A.02.10.”