Wash. governor wants to ‘eliminate’ coal

Source: Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2014

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans yesterday to cap the state’s greenhouse gas emissions while eliminating the use of coal and expanding cleaner cars and energy efficiency programs.

An executive order signed by Inslee, a Democrat, creates the Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce to design a “cap and market” program to help Washington cut its emissions by 2020, 2035 and 2050. The panel of 21 people is instructed to provide its recommendations to Inslee by November.”This is the right time to act, the right place to act and we are the right people to act,” Inslee said in a press conference yesterday, according to his office.

The executive order is in line with Inslee’s campaign promises made last year, when he elevated the issue of climate change in his gubernatorial campaign. The political race contrasted sharply with activity in Congress on rising temperatures, which has gained little momentum since efforts to cap emissions nationally collapsed in 2010.

It’s unclear if Inslee’s executive order will match its ambitious efforts to place statewide limits on carbon being released from power plants, the transportation sector and other sources of greenhouse gases. The state Legislature would have to approve the carbon program while also funding other climate efforts the order requires of state agencies.

The governor’s plan is meant to fulfill earlier commitments by lawmakers, who in 2008 established a timeline by which the state’s emissions would be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. If an emissions cap is enacted, Washington would join a relatively small group of states with similar programs, such as California and several New England states.

Supporters hope those state-based examples will continue to grow, eventually perhaps convincing Congress to address national emissions.

“Governor Inslee’s courageous action to address climate change in Washington state should be an example to other U.S. governors,” said Adrienne Alvord, the Western states director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In addition to developing a “cap and market” program for carbon, the executive order instructs state agencies to work with electric utilities to eliminate the use of coal, which fuels a small amount of Washington’s energy generation. The state relies almost exclusively on hydropower derived from dams.

It also orders the state Department of Transportation to design programs and find the funding for the “electrification of our transportation system,” through increased use of light rail, buses and electric vehicles. The governor also tasked the state Office of Financial Management to study options for a clean fuel standard. Transportation accounts for about 44 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Other efforts include finding new revenue for programs to develop and deploy renewable energy and energy efficiency, the order says.

“In Washington and across the nation we’ve already begun to see the harm caused by climate change,” Rod Brown, a lawyer whom Inslee appointed to co-lead the Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce, said in a statement. “By acting now, we can protect Washingtonians while at the same time offering all of us the economic opportunities we see emerging in the clean energy economy.”