Wash. Governor Ready For New Push To Put A Price On Carbon | KUOW News and Information

Wash. Governor Ready For New Push To Put A Price On Carbon

Nov 18, 2014
Originally published on November 17, 2014 6:30 pm

SEATTLE -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee took the handoff Monday for his latest run at putting a price on carbon emissions.

It happened at a gathering at Seattle City Hall, where the chair of his task force on climate change, Ada Healey, delivered a set of options to the Democratic governor.

"Here you go, there’s a bow on it. It’s red," she joked.

Options put forward for Inslee's consideration include a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system. The task force did not make recommendations on either approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Inslee's task force isn't the first group he's charged with delivering a plan to reduce carbon emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes and, as a result, curb the volume of greenhouse gases that are contributing to global climate change.

The governor previously created a bipartisan work group to tackle this exact policy goal. That group released a report but failed to introduce any legislation to actually put a carbon tax or cap and trade system in place. The work group eventually fell apart.

Inslee's latest bid to curb greenhouse gas emissions faces headwinds, too.

Some Republicans who control the state Senate have voiced opposition to the governor’s plans to put a price on carbon.

“To start putting taxes and cap and trade on top of everything else is not the way that I would like to go forward,” said Curtis King, a GOP senator from south-central Washington.

King said he and other legislators are not happy with the way the governor put together this latest task force.

“He hasn’t put people on there that are going to be the most affected by the policy because he knew they would be against it. So he stacked the deck and here we are,” King said.   

That’s not entirely true.

Steelmaking is one of the largest industrial sources of carbon dioxide emissions, globally. So you might not expect to see a guy like Chris Youngmark sitting on the Governor’s Carbon Emissions Reductions Taskforce, but there he was. Youngmark is with a union that represents steelworkers in 11 western states.

"You know the old saying, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the plate?" he asked. "I think this process shows that if you have a seat at the table you have the ability to protect your constituents. In the absence of that somebody else is going to regulate or dictate what happens to ‘em."

Youngmark says it’s time to face climate change.

"Is it going to be difficult? Absolutely. But climate change is real. It’s one of the most important things that our members are going to face, their communities, kids, grandkids. So we need to take action," he said.

This month’s election did not go well for environmentalists and other supporters of climate policy in Washington state. Republicans secured control of the state Senate and upped their numbers in the House. That’s lowered expectations that any carbon-pricing legislation will pass.

K.C. Golden of Climate Solutions says it’s understandable that people are cynical about politicians delivering real solutions to climate change.

"But I don’t think that cynicism serves us very well," he said. "It lets them off the hook for the work they need to be doing. I don’t think anybody should be expecting the legislature not to deliver."

If it doesn’t, the governor could take some form of executive action.

There's another possibility: voters might get a chance to force climate policy through via ballot measure in 2016.

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