Cap and trade bill will hurt economy, consumers, says Shea
House Bill 1819, the so-called “cap and trade” proposal which would ration carbon emissions, was approved Tuesday by the state House Ecology and Parks Committee. Mead Republican Matt Shea voted against the measure, which he said is nothing more than a carbon tax that will hurt Washington businesses, damage the economy, and drive up consumer prices.
“It's known as 'cap and trade,' but it ought to be called 'cap and tax.' It would pile more costs and regulations onto employers at a time when businesses all over the state are struggling for survival,” said Shea. “The bill comes wrapped in comforting language about protecting the environment, but if this becomes law, companies will close, jobs will be lost, and families already struggling to makes ends meet will be hit hard.”
Under HB 1819, a cap would be placed on companies' carbon dioxide emissions, such as those that occur in manufacturing, oil and energy production. Companies would be required to buy permits from the government for the right to emit greenhouse gases at the acceptable level. Businesses with unused emission allowances could sell those credits to other companies.
“That sounds admirable on the surface, but if companies don't have enough allowances to cover their emissions, they would have to pay a fine of up to $10,000 a day,” Shea said. “And if they can't pay the penalties, or can't afford to buy extra credits from other businesses, they'd be forced to cut production, or employees, or even close their doors altogether. The last thing we ought to be doing is extending government's regulatory reach and passing legislation that threatens family-wage jobs.”
Shea also warned about the potential for corruption in the secondary market that would buy and sell carbon emission credits.
“When you have speculators betting on the price of credits, like we've see with oil futures, it creates artificially high prices,” he said. “You can see a scenario in which Washington companies could be out of business in a heartbeat because the additional credits they need are either unavailable or too expensive.”
Shea called the bill a solution in search of a problem, arguing that Washington already has some of the cleanest power and most aggressive conservation policies in the nation.
“We're a leader in reducing greenhouse gases. In fact, our state contributes only three-tenths of one percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. That hardly qualifies as a global menace” he said. “Why the aggressive support for a bill that puts businesses and jobs at risk, imperils family budgets, and would take billions of dollars from the economy, all for three-tenths of one percent?”
Shea offered three amendments to the bill.
One would have granted a sales tax exemption for wood stoves and other solid-fuel burning equipment. Shea said the amendment would encourage consumers to buy cleaner, more efficient heating devices, which would in turn help improve air quality. It failed on a party-line vote.
A second amendment would have required that “green jobs” be clearly defined. The amendment was defeated (also along party lines), but majority Democrats on the committee later removed the reference to “green jobs” from the bill.
Shea's third amendment would have required that a state cap and trade program be declared null and void if the federal government passes its own regulations setting limits on greenhouse gases. The amendment also was defeated.
“I'm very disheartened and concerned that the bill is moving forward. It's a huge tax that would cost employers time and money, threaten blue-collar jobs, and saddle consumers with higher prices for everything from electricity to food,” he said. “The only climate that's going to change is the business climate.”
###Washington State House Republican Communications