By Jessica Koski, Washington State Policy Manager
The road to net-zero emissions requires rapid acceleration of clean energy technology and low-carbon materials production. The Evergreen State is well-positioned to lead this clean manufacturing revolution and grow a new generation of high-road jobs. Washington is already home to world-class production facilities for materials like steel rebar and aluminum plate, and its strong climate commitments and highly-skilled manufacturing workforce are two cornerstones of a robust low-carbon industrial economy.
This legislative session, the Washington State Legislature took action to make this opportunity a reality by passing 2SSB 5269—the Washington Clean Manufacturing Leadership Bill. Championed by State Senator Sharon Shewmake with support from across the blue-green spectrum, 2SSB 5269 is small but mighty. It directs the Washington State Department of Commerce to develop a statewide industrial strategy and funds dedicated capacity at Commerce to ensure Washington fully leverages federal funding for decarbonizing, revitalizing, and growing manufacturing.
Three Reasons This Bill is Transformative
- Like most states, Washington’s climate policies focus narrowly on reducing local emissions and ignore interstate pollution driven by our consumption. This puts clean and responsible producers at a competitive disadvantage and risks driving manufacturers out of state and offshore in search of lower-cost production. Creating a holistic statewide industrial strategy that seeks to decarbonize and strengthen Washington’s manufacturing base simultaneously is a step toward stopping this race to the bottom.
- Access to affordable, reliable clean electricity is a prerequisite for decarbonizing and expanding Washington manufacturing—especially energy-intensive materials manufacturing. Recent efforts to reopen the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter in Ferndale, WA as a green aluminum producer, which would have restored hundreds of union jobs, failed because the purchaser could not get 400 MW of electricity to operate the plant. A statewide industrial strategy–of which energy is a key part–will help guarantee Washington doesn’t miss another tremendous opportunity like Intalco.
- The Inflation Reduction Act is the single largest investment in clean manufacturing in American history. It presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rapidly transform and grow Washington’s manufacturing base. However, many manufacturers are not aware of federal funding opportunities or do not have the capacity to apply. This includes many women and minority-owned manufacturing firms as well as small- and medium-sized companies. Adding a new staff person at the Washington Department of Commerce to track, promote, and secure federal funding will help Washington manufacturers access federal grants and ensure that all corners of the state—urban and rural communities alike—reap the benefits.
The BlueGreen Alliance is thrilled by the passage of 2SSB 5269 and looks forward to collaborating with the Washington State Department of Commerce on its implementation. We will continue working with our labor and environmental partners to make sure every manufacturing job is a good, union job.