King County Council Takes Bold Action to Cap Carbon Emissions

Legislation also creates nation’s first transit-based carbon offset program.

The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous approval for legislation that will advance King County’s goals to combat climate change in two critical ways.

First, the adopted legislation, authored by Councilmember Rod Dembowski, will require King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) and Solid Waste Divisions (SWD) to each operate on a net carbon neutral basis.

Second, the legislation establishes a Transit Carbon Offset Program at Metro Transit, making Metro Transit carbon offsets available for purchase by individuals, governments, and private entities. The new Transit Division Carbon Offset Program is the first carbon credit program for any transit agency in the United States.

"This is a win-win ordinance. It’s good for our environment and good for our economy. It will make our two utilities carbon-neutral and provide for further investment in Metro Transit, to take even more emissions out of the air” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, the prime sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy & Environment Committee. "I felt that we needed to take significantly stronger, proactive steps today to address the pressing challenge posed by climate change and local air pollution.”

"King County is nationally recognized as a leader on global warming,” said Ross Macfarlane, Senior Advisor for Climate Solutions, a Northwest regional clean energy non-profit. "This ordinance sharpens the focus on practical and cost-effective ways that the County can reduce emissions from several of its largest divisions and reach the goal of carbon neutrality in its operations. We congratulate the Council on this step.”

"With the reality of climate change it’s more critical than ever to continue our commitment to protect the natural resources of our environment,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips, who co-sponsored of the legislation. "We need to take bold action to meet this challenge and reduce carbon emissions. Investing in energy efficiency and other best practices to reduce greenhouse gases will make a healthier, more sustainable future in King County.”

Metro Transit provides more than 118 million passenger boarding’s each year, taking 175,000 cars of the road each weekday, and preventing an estimated 600,000 Metric tons of CO2 from being released into the air. Additionally, Metro operates the nation’s second largest fleet of zero-emission electric buses and for the last decade has replaced its aging fleet of diesel buses with new hybrid models.

The new legislation requires Metro Transit to hire an independent third par

ty organization to validate the GHG reductions from transit offsets. Following the independent third party validation, Metro Transit carbon offsets may be available for purchase by individuals, private entities or governments, including WTD and SWD, to achieve their own carbon reduction goals.

Additionally, the ordinance requires WTD and SWD to purchase transit carbon offsets before purchasing other offsets from outside King County if transit offsets are comparably priced.

Revenue from the sale of transit offsets is required to be used by Metro Transit solely for the purposes of reducing GHG emissions by providing additional transit service hours or investments which further reduce emissions beyond standard operations.