Opinion editorial by Rep. Matt Shea: Governor’s proposal would be costly for Washingtonians, but do little against climate change
Hold onto your wallets! If Gov. Jay Inslee's latest clean air rule is enacted, Washingtonians will pay more for gasoline, natural gas, electricity, food and basic necessities. What do we get in return? Not much, except feel-good regulations that hurt Washingtonians.
Since elected governor in 2012, Jay Inslee has pushed for new climate change regulations. At first, he proposed a broadly written cap and trade scheme to penalize entities that emit carbon. He also suggested a low-carbon fuel standard that by the governor's own Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW) estimate could increase the cost of gasoline in Washington by $1.17 a gallon.
The state Legislature, including Inslee's own Democratic party leaders, have refused to advance this legislation. Why?
Washington is already one of the cleanest states in the nation, contributing just 0.28 percent or three-tenths of one percent of total climate emissions. In 2013, CLEW determined any action taken by Washington state would not likely affect the global impacts of climate change. One panelist even noted “Washington could get rid of every person, car, boat, train, jet, military vehicle, and cow in our state and still not have a meaningful impact on global carbon emissions.”
Legislative leaders in Olympia understand the economic consequences of the governor's proposals would be far more severe to Washingtonians than the miniscule environmental benefits achieved. That's why they rebuffed his schemes.
Yet, Inslee continues to push his political agenda. Frustrated with the Legislature, he directed his agency, the Department of Ecology (DOE), to draw up a new carbon-capping “Clean Air Rule.” The first proposal in January was withdrawn for redrafting due to significant opposition. His latest proposal, released June 1, would require manufacturers, power plants, landfills, oil refineries and natural gas distributors to reduce emissions by 1.7 percent annually. Businesses can comply by lowering their emissions, buying “emissions reductions credits” from others in the program, paying for projects that reduce emissions in Washington, or buying allowances through cap-and-trade programs in other states and countries.
It's estimated to cost businesses between $1.4 billion and $2.8 billion. Most likely, those costs will be passed on to you and me in the form of higher gas and energy prices — and in nearly every product that is trucked to your local grocery store.
DOE could also impose fines up to $10,000 a day, which could not only cost jobs in Washington, but act as a disincentive for existing business to expand and against new employers looking to locate in our state.
Washington has already taken the lead to reduce its carbon footprint. When businesses expand or establish, they have to mitigate their emissions under the state's Environmental Policy Act. Refinery emissions are already heavily regulated. Washington's building codes entail emission standards. We lead the nation in emissions-free hydropower. Employers across our state are also investing in new, innovative technologies that reduce their carbon footprint.
If the governor is sincere about cleaner air, why not implement better management of public lands to prevent wildfires? Last year, Washington's wildfires emitted 24 million tons of carbon. DOE estimates the state emits 92 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. The governor's plan would reduce approximately 16 million tons of CO2 over 20 years. If we could clear dead vegetation that fuels these horrific wildfires, not only could it reduce emissions by considerably more than 16 million tons in ONE YEAR, but also protect lives, property and livestock. Plus, we would be CREATING jobs, not eliminating them as the governor's proposal would do. Proper forest management is one of the best things we can do to keep our air clean.
We all want a clean environment in which to live, work and pass on to our children and grandchildren. Washington is already clean and green. Feel-good regulations by the governor will make little to no difference, other than to displace jobs and make it more costly to live in Washington. There are better ways to protect our citizens. That's why the Legislature rejected his plans. And that's why the governor's latest Clean Air Rule should be rejected too.
Editor's note: Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, serves the 4th Legislative District. He is the ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee and also serves as assistant floor leader for House Republicans.