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Environment


Below are selected “Ask MRSC” inquiries we have received from local governments throughout Washington State related to environmental issues. Click on any question to see the answer.

These questions are for educational purposes only. All questions and answers have been edited and adapted for posting to the MRSC website, and all identifying information, including the inquirer’s name and agency name, has been removed.


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Does the state’s plastic bag ban apply to dog waste bags? If so, what should the city use at its dog waste dispensers at city parks? Do you have examples of other cities’ dog waste policies?
Reviewed: July 2022

The plastic bag ban does not apply to pet waste bags. See RCW 70A.530.020(3)(b), which states that carryout bags provided by a retail establishment do not include “[n]ewspaper bags, mailing pouches, sealed envelopes, door hanger bags, laundry/dry cleaning bags, or bags sold in packages containing multiple bags for uses such as food storage, garbage, or pet waste,” along with other listed types of plastic bags. Some cities use bags with recycled content or biodegradable bags in their pet waste dispensing stations, but it is not required per the plastic bag ban.

Here are a few local examples of pet waste programs and other related resources:

 

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What are a local government’s responsibilities under the state’s electric vehicle and alternative fuel procurement rules?
Reviewed: August 2021

Under RCW 43.19.648(2)(a) all Washington local governments are required to satisfy one hundred percent of their fuel usage for operating publicly owned vessels, vehicles, and construction equipment from electricity or biofuel, “to the extent determined practicable by the rules adopted by the department of commerce.”

Pursuant to RCW 43.325.080, the Washington State Department of Commerce adopted rules in 2016 (effective June 2018) to define what is and is not practicable for compliance with this law. WAC 194-29-020(7) defines “practicable” to mean:

  • ...the extent to which alternative fuels and vehicle technologies can be used to displace gasoline and diesel fuel in vehicles, as determined by multiple dynamic factors including cost and availability of fuels and vehicles, changes in fueling infrastructure, operations, maintenance, technical feasibility, implementation costs, and other factors.

Further, WAC 194-29-030(3) provides:

  • If a local government believes it is not practicable to use electricity or biofuels to fuel police, fire or other emergency response vehicles, including utility vehicles frequently used for emergency response, it is encouraged to consider alternate fuels and vehicle technologies, such as natural gas or propane, to displace gasoline and diesel fuel use. Local governments that opt to exempt emergency response vehicles from these rules must notify the department as part of their annual reporting under WAC 194-29-080.

All local governments are required to comply with the chapter rules adopted by the Department of Commerce, but reporting is required only by local governments that use more than 200,000 gallons of gas or diesel to fuel vehicles annually (WAC 194-29-040). WAC 194-29-080 sets forth the reporting requirements for local governments who are required to report:

  • By July 1 of each year, each local government required to report under WAC 194-29-040 must submit to the department an annual report on a form provided by the department documenting how it is complying with the goal of satisfying one hundred percent of fuel usage for operating vehicles, vessels and construction equipment from electricity or biofuel by June 1, 2018, based on the criteria in WAC 194-29-070, including any reasons for noncompliance and plans for future compliance.

Local governments are not required to retrofit their vehicles or replace them before the end of their useful lives.

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Do you have examples of city policies intended to incentivize the use of residential solar panels?
Reviewed: July 2021

Below are examples of cities across the state that are employing various tools (e.g. permitting, education and incentives) to encourage residential solar power. 

City of Bellevue  
Bellevue’s solar panel permitting page includes a checklist for residential photovoltaic systems and several other resources. 

City of Bellingham 
Bellingham created the first solar panel building permit exemption program in the state, eliminating permitting and engineering requirements for almost all residential installations. This link includes green building incentives, including those for solar. 

City of Edmonds 
Edmonds is a Northwest Solar Community, which means it works to promote solar energy and reduce some of the costs associated with solar installations. The program includes a flat fee and height exemptions for rooftop solar installations, among other elements. 

City of Issaquah 
Issaquah no longer requires building permits for certain residential solar installations. The city’s checklist for exemption is similar to Langley’s (below).

City of Kirkland 
As part of a federal Department of Energy grant, Kirkland and other grant partners (Seattle, Bellevue) have developed a streamlined process for the permitting of small-scale rooftop-mounted solar installations for single-family residential customers. 

City of Langley 
Langley no longer requires building permits for small roof-mounted systems less than 15kW. The city’s checklist for small roof-mounted systems is here.  

City of Mercer Island 
The Solarize Mercer Island campaign has been in place since 2014. Mercer Island is part of the Solarize Northwest program that provides discounts from participating installers. 

Solarize Snoqualmie – 2016 Municipal Excellence Award winner. Snoqualmie put together a program to help lower costs for solar installations for residents, detailed here. 

And here are a couple additional resources regarding solar power (albeit several years old now): 

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