House approves Dye bill to help cool heat-emitting cities like Seattle

A measure that would seek to implement methods to cool heat-emitting Puget Sound cities, such as Seattle, passed the state House of Representatives Thursday with unanimous approval.

Rep. Mary Dye, sponsor of House Bill 1114, says the built spaces in the higher populated urban areas of the state and down the coastline store and retain heat from rooftops, pavement and other heat-absorbing materials, creating what is known as “urban heat islands.”

“Seattle ranks among the top 10 cities in the nation for urban heat island effect. During the heat of the summer, Seattle can be 17 degrees warmer than the surrounding rural areas. These hotter temperatures not only affect the atmosphere, they also create warmer stormwater that flows in our lakes and streams, resulting in algae and problems with fish survival in Puget Sound,” said Dye, R-Pomeroy. “Those in Seattle and along Puget Sound who are worried about climate change can do something about it by taking steps to reduce heat in their own cities. That's what this bill aims to do.”

The bill encourages municipal electric utilities and public utility districts to assist customers in the acquisition and installation of materials that would help reduce outdoor heat absorption and provide energy conservation. This would include tree plantings, as well as materials and equipment installed as part of a utility cool roof program.

“By utilizing mapping programs, we can locate dense, low-income neighborhoods and areas that lack sufficient tree cover, and strategically plant trees that create a cooler environment and reduce energy use, as well as carbon emissions,” added Dye, who serves as ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee.

Dye says the bill is modeled after a successful tree planting and cool-roof program implemented in 1991 by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California.

“They did an incredible amount of research over the last 30 years to show the most effective ways to plant a tree near a building in order to achieve cooling and reduce energy peak loads during the summer months,” said Dye.

House Bill 1114 also establishes certain goals that should be accomplished by municipal electric utilities, PUDs or investor-owned utilities that engage in tree-planting programs. It also allows the utilities to solicit and use voluntary donations from customers to fund tree-planting programs. In addition, it would authorize the Utilities and Transportation Commission to adopt a policy to incentivize investor-owned utilities' tree-planting programs and cool roof programs that improve the efficiency of energy use.

The bill passed 98-0. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov