Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal for a large state-paid study of climate change strategies – and what actions can get the most benefit in Washington – is winning some support from a divided Legislature.
Senate Republicans who have been skeptical about the threat of climate change have watered down Inslee’s language – stripping statements that say the state faces twin threats from rising temperatures and ocean acidification. The GOP also altered structure of a legislative work group Inslee proposed.
But Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen has pledged to move the governor’s legislation and to work with Inslee, whom some environmentalists regard as “the greenest” governor in the country and a major voice on climate change.
“I’m committed to finding places where we can work with our new governor and not play games with him,” Ericksen said Friday. The Ferndale lawmaker, who chairs the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, hopes the full Senate can vote on Senate Bill 5802 this week.
In testimony two weeks ago, Inslee said warming global temperatures and their sidekick – acidifying oceans caused by the absorption of carbon from the atmosphere – are posing threats to the region’s economy and families that could cost $10 billion a year by 2020.
The governor suggested Washington can be a national and global leader by stepping up to the climate challenge, which he says offers economic opportunities for alternative-energy firms already here. But Inslee stopped short of saying whether Washington needs a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade system for polluters to buy and sell credits or some other option, leaving it to the study to clarify,
Inslee told reporters last week that he is happy his legislation is still moving through the Legislature, but he wants to restore language about the impending threat of climate change.
“It’s very important that the bill make clear that we do have a problem with ocean acidification. It is very important that the bill make clear that Washington state is going to step up to the plate to fight climate change,” Inslee said. “But we’ve been told by the chair that we’ll continue work on this. And we’re going to continue to try to find a meeting of the minds on this so we move forward.’’
In the latest Republican versions of SB 5802, Inslee is kept as chairman of the work group but he is stripped of a vote – a development Inslee does not consider pivotal. Ericksen said he wants to be sure that a 3-to-1 majority of members is needed to embrace any particular course of action that the study recommends.
Hopeful environmentalists are watching cautiously.
Clifford Traisman, a leading lobbyist for several environmental groups, said that the important thing is that the Senate bill still calls for a study to determine if the state can meet its targets for reducing carbon dioxide pollution to 1990 levels by 2020 – and go even lower by 2035 and 2050. State analysts estimate the study and associated expenses would total $535,000.
“The bottom line is this: We want to have a comprehensive look at whether as a state we are addressing the effects of climate change. The bill essentially calls the question: Do we have the means to meet our targets or not?” Traisman said.
If trouble arises and derails the Senate bill, the House has its own version to advance. House Bill 1915 is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Dave Upthegrove of Des Moines, who chairs the House Environment Committee. He is giving the bill a hearing at 8 a.m. Tuesday with Inslee as the star witness.
“It’s hard to predict the outcomes. But I think the House is very aligned with the governor’s values on this issue. I don’t see the kind of changes in the Senate happening with the House bill,” Upthegrove said.Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/politicsblog Download the Capital Update app for iPad and iPhone for a seven-day free trial.