Washington Bill Aims to Resolve Tensions around Renewable Energy Development

The Washington legislature has passed a bill proposed by Governor Jay Inslee to help facilitate the development of renewable energy while addressing the concerns of rural and tribal communities. The bill proposes a formal process for “least conflict siting” which would identify the least controversial places to build, and involve stakeholders and communities from the start. This is part of an initiative set out in 2019 to require 100% of Washington’s energy be derived from renewable sources by 2050.

The new bill is designed to give rural and tribal communities a greater say in renewable energy projects that could potentially affect their environment or lifestyle. It also creates a council across state agencies to identify ways to improve renewable energy project siting and permitting, track federal renewable energy projects, and create a list of federally recognized tribes to consult with.

This was an important step taken by lawmakers earlier this month as they unanimously approved the legislation. Gov. Inslee praised the bill saying: “This is the right thing to do; it will provide certainty for everyone involved in our state’s clean energy efforts, especially rural and tribal communities, who have not always been fully included in decision-making about clean energy projects in their areas.”

Tribes in Eastern Washington are pushing for representation when it comes to mitigation benefits and reimbursement related to work done on siting applications. They feel that they should have been rightfully considered from the start rather than being brought into play at this stage in the process, but hopefully with this legislation they can come together with state governments and lawmakers for better results now going forward.

Clean energy has been shown over time to be more beneficial for both local economies as well as local environments. Jobs would be created through the construction of wind turbines or solar panels, as well as through maintenance contracts needed once these are built. This new bill is an important step towards achieving Gov. Inslee’s goal within his set timeframe while ensuring all stakeholders are fairly represented throughout this process.

It is important to note this bill does not guarantee the success of any renewable energy projects. But, it should help ensure that rural and tribal communities have a better say in these processes and can work with state governments to create large-scale clean energy solutions for Washington State. In doing so, it can help bring our state one step closer towards a greener future.

The bill is not yet in effect, but is expected to be signed by Gov. Inslee soon. Moving forward, it will help clear up the confusion and tension that can arise between renewable energy developers and local community members when projects are proposed in their area. It also sets a good example for other states looking to make their own renewable energy commitments in the future. By creating an open dialogue with stakeholders and communities, Washington is making progress towards its goal of achieving a clean energy economy. This should be celebrated as it marks a positive step forward in the state’s mission of becoming a leader in renewable power production.

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