Wednesday, February 6, 2008

GMA Expansion measure passes out of Committee

Title of SHB 2797: An act mitigating the impacts of climate change through the Growth Management Act.

Many local governments including medium size cities are struggling to meet the current standards of the GMA, but despite local testimony against HB 2797, the bill was passed out of the House Local Government Committee last Friday by a vote of 4 to 3. Representative Judy Warnick, (R) Moses Lake was the single dissenting voice.

The House Democratic Caucus has not issued a statement about the bill.

The Growth Management Act (GMA) is the comprehensive land use planning framework for county and city governments in Washington. Initially enacted in 1990, the GMA establishes a number of requirements for local governments that are obligated by mandate or choice to plan under the Act. 29 of the 39 Washington counties and the cities within those counties are planning jurisdictions.

SHB 2797 adds a climate change goal to the planning goals of the GMA. The goal calls for reduced climate change impacts by lessening emissions of greenhouse gases and adapting to the effects of climate change through sustainable energy, transportation planning and land use management practices. The measure is scheduled to take effect on December 31, 2010.

The measure adds a new goal and planning element for climate change under the Growth Management Act (GMA). It will require the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED) to: 1) add planning staff for technical guidance; 2) contract with consultants for extensive new rule making; 3) hold statewide workshops for local governments; 4) manage a new pilot program; and 5) report to the governor and legislature on an ongoing basis regarding the effectiveness of this act.

The Department of CTED must provide counties and cities with a range of advisory climate change response methodologies and estimates. The methodologies and estimates must reflect the regional and local variations of planning jurisdictions, and: 1) Identify greenhouse gas emission reductions that various land use and building measures are estimated to produce The developed methodologies must be capable of considering documented benefits of specified land use planning actions; and, 2) identify potential policies, regulatory programs and other measures cities and counties can implement to adapt to the likely adverse effects of global warming.

(In support) “the bill is being revised and will be limited to establishing a new planning goal and requiring CTED to: develop methodologies for measuring emissions; provide compliance advice to local governments; and establish a grant program. This bill is one of the top four legislative priorities of the environmental community. Fossil fuel based transportation is the primary contributor to global warming, and the GMA is the appropriate vehicle for addressing climate change. The Governor’s Climate Advisory Team is planning to use the GMA to address global warming through land use provisions.

Global warming refers to trends in the global average temperature. The problem of rising temperatures is very much a state and local issue. Imported oil and natural gas dependencies are costly and affect national security. National and International solutions are needed, but local action is critical. The Legislature has also been looking into cleaner cars and fuels, but an increase in the number of vehicle miles traveled will offset those gains. Internationally, 780 cities have adopted the Kyoto Protocols, including 29 Washington cities. These Washington cities will have to address climate change, but they lack the tools to do so.

(Those opposed) A diverse group of stakeholders is working on an amendment to this bill. The City of Kennewick is still learning about climate change and needs additional time to develop expertise. Local citizens should be engaged in developing responses to climate change. The addition of a new GMA goal is concerning, as are the implementation costs.

Growth Management Hearings Boards elevate certain goals above others. This bill will create a new cause of friction and the proposed planning goal will create a new source of litigation. Agency guidance documents have become defacto rules. Emission issues are already being litigated under the State Environmental Policy Act.

This legislation has no eastern Washington sponsors. Proposed and enacted legislation continues to reduce the land use authority of local governments. The GMA is intended to provide structure, but state interference has prevented it from realizing its potential. This bill will reach into the private lives of citizens and might frustrate the good intentions of local governments. The requirements of this bill should be changed to guidelines and incentives that could be applied to all jurisdictions.

The Governor established climate change related goals that were codified in 2007. The Governor’s actions also led to the establishment of the Climate Advisory Team, a joint effort that the business community is participating in. The legislative approach contained within the bill is premature: the Climate Advisory Team has not made legislative recommendations for local government responses to climate change. The business community was not consulted in the drafting of the original bill, and is concerned about adding a new goal in the GMA. The business community is willing to look at climate change issues at the local level, but this bill is not the best approach for doing so.”

33 cities and 19 counties will be subject to the climate change planning requirements of SHB 2797. In addition to the 29 cities and three counties with high capacity transportation services would be required to amend their comprehensive plans to provide for developments that serve high capacity transit areas. It is also expected that neighboring jurisdictions tat meet proposed population thresholds defined by this proposal will become subject to the climate change planning mandate.

The core expenditure impacts to the 33 cities and 19 counties subject to this proposal include costs to:
a. Inventory greenhouse gas emissions
b. Develop a Climate Change element of the Comprehensive Plan
c. Develop methods to define and mitigation of anticipated greenhouse gas emissions
d. Implement the Climate Change elements of the Comprehensive Plan
e. Participate in any GMA appeals filed as a result of the Climate Change plan elements
f. Amend comprehensive plans to better link to voter approved high capacity transit areas.

Planning costs will be highly variable and depend on the status of current planning efforts, the guidance adopted by CTED and other factors. Here are some estimates of cost figures for new comprehensive plan elements; conversations with planning staff from other jurisdictions, local government associations, and a brief review of the literature related to climate change and transportation planning.

Estimated direct one time costs for the initial inventory effort
8 counties and 26 cities = 34 jurisdictions *$20,000 = $680,000
11 counties and 7 cities = 18 jurisdictions *$25,000 = $450,000

Total base estimate = $1.13 million to complete inventories

Areas with population of 30,000 to 99,000 -- $50,000 per jurisdiction
Areas with population of 100,000 or more -- $100,000 per jurisdiction

Estimated direct one time costs for the initial planning effort
8 counties and 26 cities = 34 jurisdictions *$50,000 =$1.7 million
11 counties and 7 cities = 18 jurisdictions *$100,000 = $1.8 million

Total base estimate = $3.5 million to complete initial planning.

Based on assumptions in the Office of Financial Management Fiscal Note, it is estimated that the bill will have initial direct expenditure impacts of $4.8 million over several years as a result of the new mandates to complete greenhouse emissions inventories and climate change planning that would be required.

Judy Warnick, Moses Lake, was the lone dissenting voice against the bill.

The entire text of SHB 2797 can be located at:

House Bill Report can be found here:

Fiscal Note:

Global warming management sites:

Priorities for a Healthy Washington site:
Harnessing farms and forests in new low carbon society:

How to control emissions - (heads up Entrepreneurs):

What other nations are doing:

Measuring Global Warming and Greenhouse gases:

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