Seattle City Light Named Environmental Champion for Fourth Consecutive Year

Each year, Market Strategies International runs the Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement Survey (.pdf) for its Cogent Reports. The survey spans the markets of 131 residential electric, natural gas and electric/gas combination utilities across four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. For the fourth year in a row, the survey results led to City Light being named an Environmental Champion.

To be designated an Environmental Champion, a utility must facilitate consumption management, enable environmental causes, encourage environmentally friendly fleets and buildings, and generally show its customers a dedication to promoting clean energy. These traits comprise the survey’s Environmental Dedication Index. City Light was one of the highest-rated utilities in the study, scoring second in the West region on the survey index.

In 2005, Seattle City Light became the first electric utility in the nation to reach carbon neutral status. The utility is actively involved in protecting fish and wildlife, promotes renewable energy development and has the longest-running energy conservation program in the country.

Washington Cities, Counties and Utilities Unite to Launch “One-Stop” Green Business Program

The City of Seattle is announcing a program, EnviroStars, that will provide green business services from around the region under one tool.

The amplified EnviroStars program will be a central hub for Washington businesses to receive assistance and recognition for saving energy and water, reducing waste and pollution, choosing safer products and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

EnviroStars businesses can track environmental performance online and see how their actions save operational costs and positively impact the environment. “The EnviroStars program will help businesses use fewer resources, which means they can dedicate that saved money for other priorities,” said Mayor Tim Burgess. “It’s exciting to see a growing number of businesses adopt an environmentally aware mentality. Every city should have a no-cost, pro-business, pro-environment effort like this.” This free program helps businesses see what programs are available to help them address negative externalities, and can help busy small business owners set out a plan to achieve their environmental goals.

For 20 years, Seattle Public Utilities’ Green Business Program has helped businesses take actions to save money, conserve resources and contribute to a clean and healthy community. “By joining forces with other agencies and streamlining services offered throughout our region, we are making it even easier for businesses to achieve their green business goals,” said Mami Hara, Director of Seattle Public Utilities.

Over 17 agencies from around Western Washington have pooled resources to develop and launch the program, which includes a central web portal that allows businesses to find referrals for local sustainability services and incentives and start on a path to recognition. The program will also help small businesses connect with one another so they can learn from and support their peers.

Consumers can use the EnviroStars directory to find local businesses who share their environmental values—from restaurants and grocery stores, to hotels and auto body shops, and everything in between. They can also look for the EnviroStars mark on storefronts of recognized businesses in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Edmonds and other member cities starting this fall.

“The program allows consumers to make empowered choices about where to take their business,” said Laurel Tomchick, creator of the original EnviroStars program at the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County. “Choosing local EnviroStars recognized businesses reinforces better business practices—which in turn creates healthier, safer communities and motivates more businesses to ‘work green.’”

“It’s a Pacific Northwest tradition—connecting green-minded consumers with green businesses. It’s an economic and environmental win. We are committed to providing the clean energy that powers this vibrant community,” said Larry Weis, General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light.

Seattle’s first EnviroStars recognized business is Madres Kitchen, a full-service catering and events company based in Seattle, which also participated in the City’s past Green Business Program.

Businesses that engage with EnviroStars will benefit by learning to operate more efficiently, strengthening their bottom line, improving employee health and gaining recognition for environmental leadership.

“The new EnviroStars program will provide a one-stop shop for businesses to access information about building sustainability into their ongoing business plan,” said Sara Nelson, Co-owner of Fremont Brewing. “We are excited to be part of a program that will help share our environmental accomplishments with our customers and work towards addressing climate change.”

To learn more or to get started, visit http://www.envirostars.org.

Seattle Committed to Paris and the Climate

After President Trump announced his intentions to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord earlier this month, Mayor Murray announced Seattle’s intention to meet or exceed Seattle’s target of the federal Clean Power Plan, joining with dozens of cities and several states in the effort. If the United States Government and Donald Trump aren’t going to take climate change seriously, then cities and states will come together at a sub-national level to step up.

Last week, I sponsored a Resolution that was unanimously adopted by Council to affirm our commitments to the Paris Climate Accord, including the potential to go beyond Seattle’s already ambitious Climate Action Plan, and also calls upon Puget Sound Energy to demonstrate leadership by rejecting fossil fuel infrastructure.

More than half the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050 cities will likely be bursting with almost 70% of the people on the planet. We also know that cities account almost 2/3 of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Cities can also be incubators for the solutions to climate change, and we must act now.

Seattle is no stranger to taking on local issues with regional – or national – significance.  So it makes sense that our city officials continue to tackle climate change head on by reducing pollution, improving aging infrastructure, and making walking, biking, and transit more attractive to residents, no matter who occupies the White House.

We embarked on this mission under Mayor Greg Nickels, when he led our city’s involvement in global agreements like the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and tried to tackle these problems head on.  We continued that tradition last year when many local leaders and I had a chance to go to Paris to be a part of the global climate conference there.  It was incredible to see what cities are doing around the world to make meaningful strides towards ending our dependence on fossil fuels, and many of them were efforts we’re already undertaking in Seattle.

The most important thing we can do locally is to create viable alternatives for people to get around without the use of fossil fuels.  That’s where my passions for expanding transit access and improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure, making land use decisions to create denser cities, and ending our addiction to fossil fuels, come from. I am also firmly committed to our City’s Equity and Environment Initiative, which works to ensure that those most disproportionately experiencing the impacts of climate change – people of color, immigrants, refugees, people with low income and people with limited-English proficiency – can be the leading voices and beneficiaries in our efforts to fight climate change. We will continue and expand these efforts, no matter who occupies the White House.

We must also call upon other local leaders to step up their efforts if we are going to fill the gap in leadership at the federal level. In particular, Puget Sound Energy continues to rely on coal power, and is the owner of a plant that is the 3rd largest carbon polluter in the US. It is time for PSE to walk its talk and retire the entire Colstrip coal plant by 2025 and publicly commit to replacing the plant with 100% renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions.

We also call on state leaders to act on climate-related efforts and deny permits for all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Washington, including the proposed nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, WA.  I’m disappointed, and frankly outraged, that the final permits went through for the world’s largest methanol refinery in Kalama, WA. The expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and the export of fossil fuels significantly undermines the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement; it puts us backwards on the path towards saving the planet; and contradicts Inslee’s previous commitment to fulfill the Paris Climate Accords that he made just a couple weeks ago.

The future of the human race depends on decisions we make in the present, and in response to choices we’ve made in the past. In the absence of federal leadership, we have a moral imperative to take bold action the City, State, and Regional level to fight for our future existence.

Mayor Murray signs resolution committing to Paris Climate Agreement

Today, Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after signing a resolution that affirms the City of Seattle’s commitment to meet or exceed the goals established in the Paris Climate Agreement:

“As the Trump administration disavows facts, shrinks from responsibility, and retreats from leadership, Seattle is committed to being carbon-neutral by 2050. We are putting America first by putting clean air, clean water, public health and safety first. Most importantly, we are putting our children’s future first. We will continue to work with other governments, businesses, and organizations across Washington and the world to fight climate change. With the strong leadership of Governor Jay Inslee and the U.S. Climate Alliance, local governments will lead the effort to build a 21st century, sustainable economy that creates jobs, opportunity, and prosperity for all.”

 

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Mayor Murray, Councilmembers Herbold and Sawant unveil tax proposal for high-income households

Today, Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmembers Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) and Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park) unveiled a joint proposal to begin shifting Seattle to a more progressive and sustainable tax structure, through a tax on high-income households. The proposal would place a 2 percent tax on joint filers’ income over $500,000 and single tax filers’ income over $250,000. The estimated $125 million in new annual revenue would allow the City to lower the burden associated with property taxes and other regressive taxes, replace federal funding potentially lost through President Trump’s budget cuts, enhance public services such as housing, education, transit, and/or create green jobs while meeting the City’s carbon reduction goals.

“Washington state’s tax structure is the most regressive in the country, putting the burden on many of our most vulnerable residents,” said Mayor Murray. “Leaving cities with only regressive tax options puts the heaviest burden on working people, families and communities of color. By replacing a system that relies too heavily on property and sales taxes with a progressive income tax, we can ease that burden and generate revenue to invest in Seattle priorities – human services, education, affordable housing and reliable transit. This remains one of the major shortcomings of our city and state, and it is finally time to fix it.”

“I ran for office four years ago on a program of a $15 per hour minimum wage, to tax the rich, and for rent control,” said Councilmember Sawant. “We won $15 by building the 15 Now grassroots campaign. Now we’re on the cusp of taxing Seattle’s rich, because socialists, activists, and community organizers have tirelessly built up our movement over the years. Our movement will continue to organize in our interests, against big business and the super rich, to make Seattle affordable for all.”

“People earning $20,000 a year devote two entire months of pay to their yearly tax bill; the 1 percent pay their annual tax bill in only six days,” said Councilmember Herbold. “A tax on high incomes will give Seattle a more equitable revenue structure to fund affordable housing and services addressing homelessness, education, transit, and climate change, and it could also be dedicated to lowering other regressive taxes and replacing federal funding potentially lost to Trump budget cuts.”

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has found Washington state’s existing tax structure to be the most regressive in the nation, disproportionately hitting low-income households. ITEP found in 2015 that state and local taxes paid by the 20 percent of Washington families with the lowest incomes amounted to 16.8 percent of their income. In contrast, the tax burden for the 1 percent of families with the highest incomes was 2.4 percent of their income.

“Households with incomes below $21,000 are paying, on average, 16.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those with incomes above $500,000 pay just 2.4 percent said John Burbank, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, which co-leads the Trump Proof Seattle Coalition. “It is reasonable for Seattle’s wealthiest residents, who currently pay the lowest tax rates, to pay a little more to make Seattle a better place for everyone – including themselves – to live, work, raise a family and do business.”

The City Council will conduct an initial public hearing regarding this proposal on June 14. It is anticipated City Council will take final action by mid-July.

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