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Efficiency, Equity, Environment Focus of 2023 State Legislative Advocacy

February 28, 2023

A new year brings a new Washington State legislative session, and more opportunities to promote economic opportunities and quality of life in the region by advancing the Port's mission in an equitable, accountable, and environmentally responsible manner.  

Legislative advocacy plays a critical role in the Port’s work. Legislation provides funding for large-scale efficiency and sustainability projects, creates valuable incentives and policy direction, and gives the Port authority to work in critical areas like career development for Port-related fields.   

During last year's Washington state legislative session, the Port successfully advocated for the greenest transportation package in the state’s history, funding for the Port’s Pier 66 Shore Power Project, critical investments in Maritime High School, carbon emission reduction policies, workforce training and education, and freight mobility funding.  

Every year the Port Commission adopts policy priorities that direct efforts for the upcoming session.  This year Commissioners adopted the state legislative priorities agenda on November 8.   

A summary of priority legislation for this year’s session includes: 

Sustainable Aviation Fuel incentives  

The Port of Seattle is part of a coalition of aviation and clean fuel production entities who worked with Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig to draft legislation that will incentivize in-state production and use of Sustainable Aviation fuels (SAF). Senator Billig has championed SAF issues in the Senate since the early 2010s, has routinely supported the budget request for the Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Work Group (SABWG, on which the Port sits), and sits on the group himself. 

Both SAF bills (SB 5447 and HB 1505) include requirements that the Department of Ecology elevate SAF to a Tier 1 fuel pathway; and a potential amendment to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) statute to give SAF a “multiplier” in the credit market. 

Commissioner Fred Felleman testified in support of the legislation during a February 1 hearing. 

Puget Sound Gateway SR 509 Extension 

The Port of Seattle and the Northwest Seaport Alliance are working with regional allies to secure continued funding for the Gateway Project (Highways 167 and 509). These projects complete two major unfinished highways in the Puget Sound region to create new connections to Interstate 5, the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle, and SEA Airport, and reduce congestion and emissions from truck traffic.    

The projects are now underfunded by $265 million due to due to inflationary pressures. This week the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, and the Northwest Seaport Alliance, added their names to a coalition letter to Transportation Chairs Fey and Liias urging full funding for the Gateway Project.  

Increasing middle housing 

The Port of Seattle supports legislation (HB 1110 and SB 5190) to increase housing density in residential areas typically dedicated to single-family detached housing. Increasing middle housing options reduces pressure to develop natural and working lands.  Protecting industrial and working lands safeguards the movement of freight and goods and protects local, living-wage jobs. Commissioner Felleman testified in support of the legislation. 

Clean Energy facility siting 

With aspirations to be the cleanest, most energy- efficient port in North America, the Port of Seattle supports HB 1216 to create an Interagency Clean Energy Siting Coordinating Council; establish a definition for clean energy projects “of statewide significance”; require SEPA review to be completed within two years; and initiate a programmatic environmental review for certain types of energy development.  Commissioner Calkins testified in support of the legislation.  

Quiet Sound funding  

In the 2021 session, the Port helped lead an effort to secure funding to establish the Quiet Sound program, as part of Governor Inslee’s 2019 Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force recommendations.  After a year of successful program implementation and early successes, the Port and other partners are supporting Quiet Sound as it seeks additional funding ($700,000 for the next two years) from the State Legislature to ensure continued program success and future growth and development. 

Tourism funding   

Tourism is a vital and significant segment of King County and Washington state's economy. The Port supports HB 1258/SB 5465 to increase tourism funding in the state through updates to the statewide tourism marketing account and by changes to match requirements. Commissioner Felleman testified in support of the legislation.   

Funding for anti-human trafficking centers 

Because transportation hubs like airports are often used to transport victims, the Port of Seattle has been a regional leader in anti-human trafficking awareness efforts since 2018. The Port supports SB 5114 and HB 1089 to create a network of hearing, support, and transition services for adults 18 and older with lived experience of sex trafficking and create center on both sides of the state. Commissioner Cho testified in support of the legislation.  

Childcare facilities  

The Port supports quality jobs for employees and the efforts to increase childcare facilities across the state and adjacent to Port facilities. Finding convenient, affordable childcare provides the basis for many jobseekers to enter the workforce and is a component of quality jobs. Commissioner Mohamed submitted a letter and testimony in support of HB 1199, a bill that would reduce restrictions and limitations on siting of childcare facilities.   

Opportunity for community-led projects “2 to 1 Match”  

The Port has worked since 2020 on legislation that would reduce the required “local match” that non-profit applicants must provide to receive grants through the Port’s South King County Community Impact Fund. This change would enhance the Port’s ability to contract with service organizations, non-profits, and volunteers, on public and community improvement projects in neighborhoods near SEA Airport. Port staff, working with bill sponsors of HB1086, were successful in getting language included in the bill to help accomplish the Port’s goals. 

Port staff have also testified in favor of legislation to support workforce development for clean energy workers, removing derelict aquatic structures, raising the cap for “Small Public Works” contracting, and trade resiliency.   

There’s more advocacy work to be done until this session adjourns on April 24. And the Port Government Relations Staff will be there facilitating change that will impact the Port’s work and improve your quality of life. 

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