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Inslee looks to unveil early version of climate plan this summer

Gov. Jay Inslee, right, looks at young shellfish during a recent visit to Taylor Shellfish's Dabob Bay facility. Credit: John Stang

Gov. Jay Inslee's office expects to unveil a preliminary idea on how to tackle carbon emissions in Washington soon.

That will be at a July 29 meeting of a carbon emissions advisory task force. The proposal's purpose is to provide an outline of a plan for the 21-member task force to modify, trim, add to and tweak, said Chris Davis, the governor's senior advisor for energy and carbon markets. At a Tuesday meeting of the task force in Seattle, Davis said he expects significant modifications to be made to that proposal.

He said details of the rough administration proposal have not been nailed down. 

The task force's purpose is to provide advice to Inslee in preparation for the governor proposing legislation in 2015 to tackle carbon emissions in Washington.

Davis said Inslee has some broad requirements that the task force's recommendations should address.

Any proposed 2015 plan must include a way to enforce carbon emissions reduction targets set in a 2008 state law, Davis said. In 2008, Washington's Legislature set a goal of reducing the state's greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with further trimming of emissions to 25 percent below Washington's 1990 level by 2035 and to 50 percent below by 2050. So far, nothing has happened. If no new remedial measures are tackled and the state' population growth continues, state discharges will blast away all the goals for reductions set five years ago.

Davis said Inslee also wants the panel to identify the best ways to use market forces to reduce carbon emissions. He wants the committee to consider the economic consequences of its plan and addressed, along with ensuring no region suffers disproportionate impacts. He also wants the advice to include how to boost job creation while addressing climate change issues. And the governor wants Washington's proposed system to be able to link up and coordinate with other states' similar systems, Davis said. A few task force members also want to explore coordinating with other states.

Meanwhile, task force member Rich Stoltz of OneAmerica, called for the committee to be briefed in the future on how transportation matters, much as vehicle emissions, would fit into any approach to reduce carbon emissions.

And task force member K.C. Golden of Climate Solutions contended that any plan proposed by Inslee should be designed to hold up over a period of decades, and not just provide reductions for a short time. "It's really important to think several moves down the line," Golden said. 

This panel is Inslee's second attempt at using a committee to design a plan to tackle carbon emissions. In 2013, Inslee presided over a climate-change panel of two Republican legislators and two Democrat legislators that deadlocked along party lines. The Democrats wanted to explore carbon emissions limits and cap-and-trade programs. Republicans — backed by major business lobby groups such as the Association of Washington Business — opposed those measures. Instead, Republican legislators wanted to explore adding more nuclear power and revoking the state's 2008 carbon emissions reduction law.

Carbon emissions have been linked to acid rain, which falls into oceans, lakes and rivers. Acid rain is increasing the acidity of the water along Washington's shores including Puget Sound, which has begun killing baby oysters and harming other shellfish harvested in the Northwest. Washington’s shellfish industry is worth about $270 million annually. Carbon emissions are also linked to global warming, which influences how snow packs melt, which in turn affects how much water is available for farming. As he moves toward announcing his preliminary plan, Inslee has been visiting shellfish sites.

For exclusive coverage of the state government, check out Crosscut's Under the Dome page.

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