More Study vs. Strong Action Now

By John Stang, Crosscut

A legislative panel is supposed to decide by December 31 on recommendations to the Washington Legislature on how to deal with climate change and carbon emissions. The Republicans and Democrats on the panel have put their own proposals on the panel’s Web site. The panel is supposed to recommend a plan of action on Dec. 18.

A bipartisan set of recommendations appears unlikely.

The panel consists of Gov. Jay Inslee; Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island; Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien; Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale; and Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy.Three of the four legislators must agree on any formal recommendations going forward. So far, the panel has split along party lines with the Democrats urging immediate action because of legal obligations, and the Republicans saying the economic impacts must be studied before any actions are taken.

Republicans Ericksen and Short recommended that the Legislature revisit and possibly change the goals set by the 2008 law. They want more incentives provided for using hydroelectric power. More use of nuclear power should be explored. More cost analyses should be conducted on reducing greenhouse gases. More research on “clean” technologies should be conducted.

Meanwhile, Inslee, Ranker and Fitzgibbon propose putting a legal cap on all of Washington’s carbon emissions, with a cap-and-trade program included to allow corporations to juggle emissions among themselves. They suggested that coal imported to Washington power plants from out-of-state be counted as a source of carbon emissions to be kept within Inslee’s proposed cap. Energy efficiency measures would be tackled. And legislating use of low-carbon fuels would be explored.

Under a cap-and-trade program, Washington would have an overall annual limit to its carbon dioxide emissions. Limits would be set for specific geographic areas. Firms would obtain rights for specific amounts of emissions in those areas and could trade their rights. The legislative panel’s technical consultant, the Virginia-based firm Leidos, has reported the most potent proposed policy would be to install a cap-and-trade program.