Court of Appeals rules Washington’s Climate Law unenforceable on PSRC

"It’s time to move toward climate-friendly and voter-supported priorities of transportation investments like fixing our existing roads and bridges, increasing transit access, and creating more opportunities for safe biking and walking."

The Washington Court of Appeals ruled yesterday [ruling] that the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) did not violate state law by failing to consider a responsible climate pollution option when adopting its 30-year transportation plan, Transportation 2040.

Washington law however, requires the state to reduce climate pollution to 1990 levels by 2020, with additional reductions in later years. Washington law also requires significant reductions in vehicle miles traveled per capita.

“Despite this ruling, we have a responsibility to our neighbors today and to future generations to face the climate crisis head on,” said Tim Gould of the Sierra Club, which together with Cascade Bicycle Club and Futurewise filed a lawsuit against PSRC for failure to meet the requirements of Washington’s climate law in its 2040 transportation plan.

“We’re seeing record temperatures and floods, droughts, and wildfires causing real harm across the world, including at home in Washington. When we experience events like the 2012 forest fires and the dwindling numbers of marine species, we are reminded we can’t let the highway construction lobby stop our progress toward having safe, clean transportation choices for everyone,”said Gould.

Almost 50 percent of Washington’s climate pollution is attributable to the transportation sector. Yet, under PSRC’s Transportation 2040 plan (T2040), there will be no change in vehicle miles traveled per capita in 2040 compared to the baseline. PSRC’s plan continues to favor widening local roadways and state highways and supporting low-density development on the urban fringe. T2040 contains almost 1000 miles of new and expanded roadways, leaving cities without funds to complete the comprehensive networks of transit, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure.

“In Washington State, the  transportation sector still remains the  largest source of greenhouse gas pollution.  Because today’s transportation investments create the land use patterns we will live with for decades, we need bold action now to create the resilient communities of tomorrow,” said Hilary Franz, Executive Director of Futurewise.
“We urge the State’s Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup to include local and regional solutions for reducing our state’s transportation carbon pollution.”

Furthermore, failing to address the climate runs counter to the public’s wishes – as polling continues to demonstrate. Two recent national polls found two-thirds of Americans want our elected representatives to act on climate change.

“Governor Inslee has been making a clarion call for action on climate,” said Evan Manvel, Director of Policy, Planning and Government Affairs at the Cascade Bicycle Club. “We look forward to seeing him lead a new, responsible approach to cutting climate pollution, working with new leadership at the Department of Ecology and Department of Transportation. It’s time to move away from the past, unbalanced approach of transportation investments that focused on polluting highway expansions, and move toward climate-friendly and voter-supported priorities of transportation investments like fixing our existing roads and bridges, increasing transit access, and creating more opportunities for safe biking and walking.”