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Another million dollar study? Governor wants to put teeth into greenhouse gas regulations

March 11, 2013

By Jeff.Rhodes

Olympia, WA – Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill being pushed by the governor to create a committee that would explore ways to enforce the greenhouse gas standards the Legislature adopted in 2008.

Lawmakers in Washington state’s House of Representatives on Monday voted to spend close to $1 million studying ways to put teeth into existing carbon emissions laws.

The measure, House Bill 1915, was approved 5-4 in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on general government on a straight, party-line vote with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

“The governor extended this bill as an invitation for a bipartisan discussion on climate change,” said Keith Phillips, an energy policy adviser to Gov. Jay Inslee. “The goal is to get there through innovation, not deprivation.”

In 2008, based on the assumption climate change was a fact, the state Legislature established goals for lowering the state’s carbon footprint. They included:

• by 2020, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels;
• by 2035, reducing the emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels;
• and by 2050, the state will do its part to reach global climate stabilization levels by reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels, or 70 percent below the state’s expected emissions that year.

What the state neglected to establish was a road map for getting there, or a funding source to pay for the effort.

HB-1915 would create a Climate Change Legislative Work Group, which would produce a report recommending policy changes necessary to reach the greenhouse gas goals.

It hasn’t been determined yet who would actually do the work, although Phillip said one possibility was the Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

“We’re in conversations to determine who is independent and credible to perform this evaluation,” he said. “At this point, we’re committed to making sure there is bipartisan support for whoever is selected as the consultant.”

“The 2008 Legslature acted appropriately is saying that if we act now, we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” said Jim Cahill, Inslee’s senior budget assistant for national resources. “We can wait around because Washington isn’t really the biggest carbon-emitter in the world, but if we do, we’re really not meeting our obligation to our kids and our grandkids.”

Cahill estimated Washington creates three-tenths of 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.

“So you’re saying the state needs to spend, say, $100 million to affect three-tenths of 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases?” asked Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee). “From a cost-benefit point of view, that doesn’t seem like a good investment for the people of Washington state. Just because it seems like a good idea in someone’d mind doesn’t mean we should be legislating it.”

“The regulations are not as onerous as one might think,” Cahill said. “And if we can do it in such a way that we develop the technology that others turn to, we also have a significant jobs opportunity. In the governor’s view, leadership is both a question of moral obligation and economic opportunity.”

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