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Sneak Peek: SPU’s 2024 Legislative Agenda

With Washington State’s 2024 Legislative Session fast approaching, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is gearing up to advocate for funding and legislation that supports affordability, protects the environment by reducing waste and pollution, and increases community resiliency. Beginning on January 8, 2024, the legislature will convene for 60 days to pass bills and a supplemental budget, which will make changes to the 2023 operating, capital, and transportation budgets.

SPU’s Legislative Agenda outlines the priorities that our Government Relations staff will be proactively advocating for. In addition to these efforts, subject matter experts and Government Relations staff will monitor all the bills that are introduced and weigh in when appropriate to support, oppose, or seek to modify proposals that impact our ability to provide high quality and affordable services to our customers.

Budget Requests:

  • $1.25 million to address pollution & sea level rise in South Park

The South Park neighborhood is located along the Duwamish River in a heavily industrialized area with significant ongoing environmental justice challenges including pollution, flooding, and poor air quality. This funding would be used to purchase land along the Duwamish River to construct a stormwater quality treatment facility, clean up the site from historical contamination, invest in flood protection and habitat restoration, and develop a portion of the site to support community goals.

  • $300,000 to study and make recommendations for a statewide water and wastewater utility assistance program

SPU has a guiding principle of affordability, and we aim to ensure that utility services are available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. This budget request would model a similar study the legislature funded in 2023 to examine a potential statewide assistance program for energy utilities. We are working with our colleagues at other public water systems to proactively encourage the state to support low-income residents with their water utility bills.

Left to right: Maggie Yuse, SPU Senior Policy Advisor and State Legislative Liaison, Andrew Lee, SPU General Manager and CEO, and Susan Saffery, Director of SPU Government Relations and Legislative Affairs

Policy Requests:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Paper & Packaging

For several years, SPU has advocated for an Extended Producer Responsibility program for paper and packaging. Passing a bill to establish this system would put producers of paper and packaging on the hook for managing their products at the end of their life cycle. This would improve recycling outcomes, shift the cost of curbside recycling from residents and local governments to producers, and set up a financial incentive for producers to reduce packaging in the first place. Read more about EPR for paper and packaging here.

  • Extended Producer Responsibility for Mercury-Containing Lightbulbs

Washington already has a producer responsibility program for mercury-containing lightbulbs in place, and it has helped increase recycling of lightbulbs and keep toxic mercury out of the garbage. Although LED bulbs have largely replaced mercury-containing bulbs as energy efficient lighting, used mercury-containing bulbs will continue requiring safe management for many years to come. However, the program is set to expire in 2025. To avoid letting the cost of continuing this program fall onto local governments and residents, SPU is advocating that the legislature extend the program with funding from legacy producers of mercury-containing lightbulbs even as they are phased out of the market.

  • Right to Repair

SPU supports efforts to reduce, reuse, and divert electronic products from landfills and move towards a circular economy. One way we support this is by working to pass Right to Repair in Washington. This would require manufacturers of computers, phones, laptops, wheelchairs, appliances, and farm equipment to provide the tools, parts, and information necessary for a consumer or independent repair shop to fix a broken product. This will help make your products more repairable and keep them out of landfills for longer. Read more about Right to Repair here.

Other Priorities:

  • Salmon recovery and upstream pollution prevention

As a manager of Seattle’s stormwater, two watersheds, a sockeye salmon hatchery, and numerous culverts blocking fish passage in streams, SPU is highly focused on pollution prevention and salmon recovery in Lake Washington and the Puget Sound. There are various ways we support salmon recovery, including advocating for state funding for municipal fish passage barrier replacement, research on 6PPD-Q (the chemical found to be lethal to coho salmon), protecting and restoring salmon habitat, and building climate resiliency. Similarly, we support policies to ban harmful chemicals like PFAS and PCBs in consumer products to help avoid them ending up in stormwater and wastewater.

Follow along with our progress on these topics by looking out for a blog post after session concludes in early March.

Maggie Yuse,
Senior Policy Advisor & State Legislative Liaison