Politics blog

Here are details of Gov. Inslee's major executive order on climate change

OlympianApril 29, 2014 

This is a new version that includes reactions from state Senate lawmakers.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a major executive order Tuesday morning that sets up a task force to design a carbon-trading market and kicks off other efforts to reduce carbon pollution, which he paints as a threat to the Northwest way of life and economy.

Down in the fine print, it says he also wants his Office of Financial Management and other agencies to start looking into the feasibility of a lower carbon fuel standard, which the oil industry and state business groups have opposed in the past.

Inslee’s big green move, carried out at the campus of Shoreline Community College, is one step by the governor to start addressing climate change after failing to persuade Republican legislators on a common course. 

The Democrat campaigned two years ago on hitching what he calls Washington’s innovation economy to helping solve the global carbon-pollution problem and creating jobs for the state economy. On Tuesday, he again invoked that innovative history in saying Washington is the appropriate place to launch such an effort.

"One, this is the right time to act. Two, this is the right place to act. And three, we are the right people to take this action," Inslee said in prepared remarks. See Inslee’s announcement here.  TVW’s streamed coverage is here.  The nine-page executive order is here

Inslee’s proposals drew praise form the Sierra Club and state Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson of Maury Island for taking steps to counter climate concerns. But it drew sharp criticism from Majority Coalition Caucus members, who are led by Republicans and hope to expand their edge in the November elections.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, the GOP chair of the Senate’s energy committee, said he was disappointed Inslee acted without giving him as much as a heads up.

“Today Governor Inslee did an end-run around the state Legislature and moved closer to imposing massive regulations that will choke job creation and add huge energy costs to the budgets of average families," Ericksen said in a prepared statement. “Through his Executive Order the governor is now taking policy development behind closed doors. His first meeting of the newly created Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce – which took place today – was never announced to the Legislature nor was the public notified in advance."

Ericksen went on to complaint that Inslee in late 2013 went to California to sign a nonbinding, multi-state agreement on climate change remedies without consulting lawmakers.

"Today’s Executive Order is evidence that the governor plans to move forward with high-cost solutions while ignoring creative solutions such as converting our Washington state ferries to liquefied natural gas," Ericksen added. Ericksen said he intends to keep working on ways to expand use of technology like nuclear power and hydro-electric power that don't produce carbon.

The executive order grows out of Inslee’s frustrated efforts to study and recommend solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup last year, which produced no unified or bipartisan recommendations.

Despite Ericksen's concerns about unilateral action on fuel standards, Inslee said any carbon market created in addition to a carbon emissions cap would need legislative approval.

The executive order captures many elements of what Democratic lawmakers and Inslee recommended at the end of that CLEW process – including calls for a cap and trade market for carbon pollution. 

Similarly, the order gives Inslee’s Legislative Affairs and Policy Office the task of negotiating with utilities phase out use of coal-fired electricity that is purchased by Washington utilities or produced by them out of state. He also wants the Utilities and Transportation Commission, which regulates utilities, to play a role.

In a state where 44 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are from the transportation sector, Inslee’s order calls for the Department of Transportation to work with federal, state, regional and local “partners” to “develop and action plan to advance electric vehicle use” and make recommendations for strategies or policies that create incentives for consumers and business to move to less polluting options.

Well down on his list of “clean transportation” tasks is the carbon fuels standard, which Senate Republicans often cited as a costly option and a reason to oppose a transportation funding package.

Inslee also asks the state Commerce Department and Washington State University and others to develop recommendations for a program that can “develop, demonstrate, and deploy new renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.

But in an interview with several Northwest reporters in February Inslee said it has been hard to get progress through the Legislature because the Senate “is still under the thrall of climate deniers.” 

More detail of Inslee’s thinking is in a climate policy paper also released Tuesday – linked here

His task force is to be co-chaired by Rod Brown of the Cascadia Law Group and Ada Healey of Vulcan, which is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s real estate and development firm. Other members include King County Executive Dow Constantine, Kimberly Harris of Puget Sound Energy, KC Golden of Climate Solutions, Jeff Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council, executive Colin Moseley of Green Diamond Resource Company, and Brad Tilden of Alaska Air Group. 

Stay tuned.

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