Inslee unveils climate proposals ahead of full budget plan

Source: By Rachel La Corte, Associated Press • Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2020

“We can fight climate change, and we can create good-paying jobs by transitioning to a cleaner energy economy,” Inslee said at a news conference announcing his plan. “We know these actions are required now. We cannot kick this can down the road anymore.”

In January, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Clean Air Rule cannot apply to companies that sell or distribute petroleum or natural gas because they don’t make their own emissions — other people burn the fuel they provide. The state Department of Ecology only has the authority to regulate “actual emitters,” like refineries, power plants, factories and other big polluters. But about three-quarters of the emissions that would have been covered by the rule came indirectly from petroleum and natural gas importers and sellers.

Under his plan, announced as part of a weeklong budget rollout, his budget would include $12.6 million to implement a bill called the “Climate Commitment Act.” In addition to the cap on greenhouse gas emissions, the bill would authorize the state Department of Ecology to implement a program for industries to comply through the sale, tracking and accounting of greenhouse gas credits. Proceeds from those will go toward funding projects focused on transportation and clean energy.

Inslee is also seeking a measure that would require fuel producers and importers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with gasoline and other transportation fuels. That effort, which has previously stalled in the Legislature, would create a clean fuels program similar to ones in British Columbia, California and Oregon. It would require fuel producers to reduce the carbon emissions associated with their products by 10% by 2028 and 20% by 2035.

The plan also expands the effort to transition the state’s 21-vessel ferry system from diesel to electric. Last year, one vessel was converted to electric. A second conversion has already been authorized, and the funding is also in place for construction of a new 144-car vessel. Inslee’s plan for the next two-year budget would fund that second conversion, as well as construction of a second new electric ferry and funding to build three charging stations. The cost over the four years would be $318 million, with about $190 being spent in the next two-year budget cycle.

Inslee’s climate proposal also looks to do the following:

  • Allocate $3.25 million to coordinate with Oregon and British Columbia on a ultra-high-speed rail corridor.
  • Require new buildings to be zero-carbon by 2030, with a goal to eliminate fossil fuels from existing buildings by 2050. He also allocates $55 million to weatherize and support energy efficiency investments for 7,000 low-income homes, $66 million to retrofit more than 200 public buildings, and $20 million to shift from fossil fuels like gas to high-efficiency electric heat pumps and other electric equipment.
  • A focus on communities most impacted by climate change, including the creation of a permanent environmental justice and equity advisory panel.
  • Spend $100 million on clean energy projects, including grid modernization, grants to nonprofit lenders who provide loans for clean energy upgrades, and research and development for new clean energy technology.

Inslee, who was elected to a third term last month, is releasing his state budget this week in several stages throughout the week. The Democratic-controlled House and Senate will each present their own budget proposals during the 105-day legislative session that begins Jan. 11.