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Inslee Wants To Explore State-Only 'Cap and Trade' Scheme

Miriam Duerr
Washington Department of Ecology
File photo of the TransAlta Centralia Coal Plant.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has laid out his wish list for how he'd like the state to combat global warming pollution.

Back in 2008, the Washington Legislature set ambitious goals for reducing the state's carbon footprint. But they're just goals, without enforcement mechanisms. Subsequently, a pact between 11 Western states and provinces to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions fell apart.

Now Governor Inslee chairs a bipartisan legislative work group tasked with recommending policies to achieve the state's climate goals. He says on its current course the state will fall far short.

"That shows the necessity in my view of having a belt-and-suspenders, economy wide approach to capping emissions in this state," said Inslee referring to a "carbon cap and trade" system for industrial polluters along with requirements to increase use of alternative fuels in transportation. His wish list includes eliminating any electricity generated by coal and putting a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

Republican legislators flanking the governor at a workgroup meeting weren't shy about raising the fear that this could drive businesses to leave Washington for less regulated neighboring states.

"How do we address for Washington state going it alone on certain issues in terms of the economic impact to manufacturing, job base and agriculture," asked GOP State Senator Doug Ericksen rhetorically.

The other four work group members also offered proposals Monday.

State Senator Ericksen talked up nuclear power. Republican State Representative Shelly Short suggested focusing on energy conservation incentives, especially to increase energy efficiency in buildings. Democratic State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon echoed the governor's call to "transition off fossil fuels" in transportation.

Democratic State Senator Kevin Ranker joined Governor Inslee in proposing to wean the state's electric utilities off of coal-fired generation. The State of Washington has already signed a deal with the energy company TransAlta to phase out the only large coal power plant inside the state's borders - that located in Centralia.

Now the Democratic politicians are targeting what they call "coal-by-wire," meaning utility purchases of electricity generated from coal at out-of-state power plants.

The bipartisan workgroup aims to produce a prioritized set a recommendations by December for how the state can curb carbon emissions in the future.

The goal is the get the state back on track to meet the following targets set by the 2008 Washington Legislature:

• By 2020, reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 1990 levels;
• By 2035, reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 25% below 1990 levels;
• By 2050, reduce overall emissions to 50% below 1990 levels, or 70% below the state's expected emissions that year if it were to continue with business as usual.

You can offer your two cents for how the state should try to cut global warming pollution at two upcoming public hearings. The first is this Wednesday, October 16 in Spokane. A second hearing is scheduled for October 23 at the Seattle waterfront.

On the Web:

Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup - Office of the Governor 
Cold feet for Western climate pact (April 8, 2009) - KQED California Report

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.