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Washington House advances bill giving nuclear energy manufacturers more time for tax exemptions

Currently, cities and towns in Washington are authorized to grant a 10-year local property tax exemption for new industrial or manufacturing facilities in designated TUAs. To qualify for the exemption, the facility must create at least 25 “family living wage jobs” within one year of building occupancy with an average wage of at least $23 per hour with health-care benefits.

Published: February 9, 2024 6:27pm

(The Center Square) -

A Tri-Cities lawmaker’s bill to provide incentives for manufacturers involved in nuclear energy production has cleared the state House of Representatives with near-unanimous support and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

“With this bill, Washington state is reaffirming its dedication to expanding clean nuclear energy and seizing the economic opportunities it brings,” said 8th District Rep. Stephanie Barnard, R-Pasco, lead sponsor of House Bill 2120.

As drafted, the measure would extend the application timeline for clean energy manufacturers seeking “targeted urban area” property tax exemptions. The bill expands on legislation passed in 2022 under House Bill 1386, which provides exemptions to manufacturers in TUAs who meet specified job targets. Barnard said her bill would provide additional time for manufacturers to address “prolonged reviews” by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“My bill aims to provide much-needed incentives for clean energy manufacturers, specifically targeting the challenges faced by nuclear manufacturing facilities,” Barnard said in a news release. “Doing so will pave the way for a more sustainable future for all of Washington state.”

After gaining initial approval from the House Finance Committee, HB 2120 cleared the full House Wednesday in a 94-1 vote. A first reading of the measure was held Friday by the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee.

Currently, cities and towns in Washington are authorized to grant a 10-year local property tax exemption for new industrial or manufacturing facilities in designated TUAs. To qualify for the exemption, the facility must create at least 25 “family living wage jobs” within one year of building occupancy with an average wage of at least $23 per hour with health-care benefits.

The tax exemption only applies to the city’s portion of the property tax although a county, by resolution, may also choose to then exempt its tax share. Qualifying facilities must be at least 10,000 square feet in size, have a minimum value of $800,000, be located on land with appropriate zoning and no existing building improvements, and be completed within three years of an approved building application.

The exemption process itself is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2030.

HB 2120 calls for extending the completion deadline for an additional four years for facilities that require certification by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. If enacted into law, the bill will take effect 90 days after adjournment of the current legislative session which is scheduled March 7. Along with Barnard, the measure has bipartisan sponsorship from fellow Republican Jenny Graham of Spokane and Democrats Clyde Shavers of Oak Harbor and Sharon Wylie of Vancouver.

During public testimony before the House Finance Committee, members were told that the city of Richland has designated almost 6,000 acres of land as a targeted urban area and has entered into two contracts with companies involved in aerospace and clean advanced nuclear energy. Both the city and Benton County – home to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory - expressed support for the legislation.

Opposition was voiced by Cathryn Chudy of the Oregon Conservancy Foundation and Suellen Mele of Zero Waste Washington. Concerns were cited that nuclear facilities produce waste that cannot be safely and permanently disposed of, and pursuit of new nuclear options slows down progress by the state of Washington in combating climate change.

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