With Washington facing an expected deficit of more than $5 billion in the upcoming two-year budget cycle, environmental groups say they’re heading into the 2009 legislative session with a wish list that adds jobs and revenue.
“This is not the year to be walking with your hands out,” said Clifford Traisman, lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. “We believe our priorities go hand in hand with generating a stronger economy.”
As in previous sessions, environmental groups have several key priorities, mainly focusing on reducing the effects of global warming.
They want more energy-efficient buildings, to auction off rather than give away pollution credits that allow industries to emit greenhouse gases, and to have polluters pay fees to help clean up Puget Sound and other waters.
The priorities are backed by more than 24 groups in the state, including American Rivers, the National Wildlife Federation and the League of Women Voters of Washington.
The environmental community has scored big victories in previous years, but it faces a bleaker landscape when the legislative session opens Jan. 12 in Olympia.
Environmentalists will be competing with numerous other interest groups to get the attention of lawmakers, who will be focused on making drastic spending cuts to balance the state budget.
“It’s going to be a long, dark and cold session,” Traisman said. But environmentalists have shaped their goals with the budget in mind, he added.
One way to raise revenue and add jobs, they say, is to auction off, rather than give away free of charge, credits that allow industries to emit greenhouse gases.
Washington and six states and four Canadian provinces drafted a plan for a regional cap-and-trade market in September that allows industries to buy and sell credits for their emissions.
The plan initially calls for selling at least 10 percent of credits to polluters through an auction and possibly giving away the rest. States will decide the details.
Washington environmentalists want all of those credits to be auctioned off, with the money to go toward investing in clean technology, such as wind and solar power.
Climate Solutions, in a report this fall, said investing in clean energy, such as wind and solar power, could create tens of thousands of jobs.
Environmentalists also want to require municipalities to consider climate change in land use and transportation planning.
“Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse emissions,” said Shefali Ranganathan, director of education for the Transportation Choices Coalition.