“Washington is at the forefront of the clean energy revolution, and we’re determined to stay there. Ensuring an equitable transition to renewable energy is crucial for addressing the climate crisis in our state. By prioritizing local renewable energy projects, we can create jobs, cut our carbon footprint, and set a powerful example for the rest of the nation. Washington’s commitment to clean energy isn’t just about hitting targets—it’s about building a sustainable future for everyone.”

— Senator Joe Nguyễn, 34th Legislative District


The transition to carbon-free energy requires significant investments in new energy facilities and extensive new transmission lines. Senator Joe Nguyễn spearheaded this effort during the 2024 legislative session by leveraging his roles as chair of the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee and vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Despite the session being short, the legislature successfully passed several bills to improve the process for siting new energy facilities and transmission lines. These measures include increasing access to relevant data, enhancing coordination across agencies and stakeholders, and streamlining the permitting and appeals process for clean-energy projects. Here is Senator Nguyễn’s list of energy siting legislation.

H.B. 1216 (2023) increases the efficiency of siting and permitting clean-energy projects in Washington by expediting environmental review and permitting processes. H.B. 1216 also seeks to ensure that the state’s energy transition occurs equitably by enhancing interagency coordination, and requiring consultation with federally recognized tribes and local governments. To expedite the siting process, H.B. 1216:

  • Directs agencies to conduct pre-project analysis and evaluation for siting new types of clean energy projects.
  • Creates an Interagency Clean Energy Siting Coordinating Council, co-chaired and staffed by the Washington Department of Commerce and the Washington Department of Ecology, and aimed at improving the siting and permitting of clean-energy projects. In furtherance of this goal, the council must engage in outreach to interested parties, track potential funding sources for clean-energy projects, and establish work groups and advisory committees focused on the siting and permitting of specific types of renewable energy. The council must also create a consolidated clean-energy application and a consolidated permit for clean-energy projects.
  • Directs the Department of Commerce to develop an application process for the designation of Clean Energy Projects of Statewide Significance, based on whether the project is a clean-energy venture that will contribute to state emission and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements and support the state’s economic development goals.
  • Establishes an optional, fully coordinated permit process administered by the Department of Ecology for clean-energy projects that do not apply to the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC). Under this coordinated process, the Department of Ecology must facilitate communication between project proponents and agency staff, and resolve conflicts among permit requirements in order to expedite the completion of such projects. The Department of Ecology must also consult with federally recognized tribes and engage with overburdened communities and local governments throughout the permitting process.

To further support the siting of clean-energy projects, H.B. 1216:

  • Directs the Department of Ecology to prepare non-project Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for solar energy, onshore wind, and green electrolytic or renewable hydrogen projects. Each EIS must include an analysis of co-location of battery storage. The Coordinating Council will use those analyses to arrive at recommendations regarding preferred locations for clean-energy development, taxation, regulation, and environmental review.
  • Directs the Washington State University Energy Program to conduct an analysis that describes the siting process for pumped storage projects in Washington.
  • Directs the Department of Commerce to conduct a report on the impacts of energy projects in rural areas based on consultation with rural stakeholders.
  • Directs the Department of Commerce to develop recommendations for improvements to clean-energy siting and permitting based on successful models in other states.
  • Amends the State Environmental Policy Act to direct lead agencies to complete an EIS for clean-energy projects within two years of a threshold determination of the probable significant adverse impact of a proposed clean-energy project.

S.B. 5165 addresses the state’s need for additional high-voltage transmission capacity by amending utilities’ planning requirements, adding transmission siting to EFSEC jurisdiction, and requiring utilities to engage in geographic analysis and long-term siting considerations. On the planning side, S.B. 5165 extends the time horizon for forecasting of utilities’ regional generation and transmission capacity from 10 to 20 years, and incorporates relevant state policies into utility planning frameworks. Utilities must also identify ways to use existing transmission more efficiently, and evaluate future needs to develop or expand transmission facilities, while taking into account the social cost of GHG emissions.

To facilitate the siting process, SB 5165 directs EFSEC to conduct non-project EISs to evaluate suitable locations for electrical transmission facilities, based on consideration of numerous probable significant adverse environmental impacts, such as: historic and cultural resources, endangered and threatened species, landscape habitat connectivity, environmental justice and overburdened communities, existing land uses, federally recognized tribes’ interests and resources, and military operations.

H.B. 2039 (2024) expedites the appeals process for environmental and land use matters that relate to clean-energy projects by enabling appeals of decisions made by environmental boards, as identified in RCW 43.21B.005, to go directly to the Court of Appeals. H.B. 2039 also allows for the consolidation of appeals related to multiple permits for the same underlying clean-energy project.

S.B. 6039 (2024) supports the development of geothermal resources by directing the collection of geologic data, and establishing grants to support exploration. S.B. 6039 requires updates to geothermal lease rates so they remain competitive with those adopted by the federal government and other states in the western United States, in order to increase Washington’s ability to attract geothermal exploration and development projects. In furtherance of this goal, and to encourage exploratory drilling that will identify locations for the development of geothermal energy, S.B. 6039 also establishes an exploration cost-share grant program to be administered by the Department of Commerce. Lastly, S.B. 6039 directs state agencies and the newly established Coordinating Council to identify opportunities and risks associated with the development of geothermal resources in numerous locations around the State.

Senator Nguyễn and the Legislature simplified the energy development process in 2024. These legislative changes were intended to make Washington ripe to develop energy projects aimed to achieve the state’s GHG emission goals.

This article summarizes aspects of the law and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice for your situation, you should contact an attorney.

Sign up

Ideas & Insights