Republican senators voiced qualms Thursday about Gov. Jay Inslee's push to tackle carbon emissions in Washington.
Inslee administration officials briefed the Senate Transportation Committee about feedback from a pair of study groups on how to tackle carbon emissions and whether to impose low-carbon fuel standards for vehicles. Inslee is expected to propose legislation in the 2015 session to trim the state's carbon emissions. At this point, Inslee is mulling ideas and feedback provided by the two study groups, but has not actually proposed a specific plan yet.
In 2008, Washington's Legislature set a legal target of reducing the state's greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and trimming emissions to 25 percent below the 1990 level by 2035. So far, nothing has happened. Inslee is using that law to set up his legislative package on carbon emissions. That package could show up in December.
Inslee believes the existence of the currently unenforced 2008 law provides him with the executive power to take some actions if the Legislature stalls. But he has been mum about whether he wants to take that approach.
The package is expected to meet significant Republican opposition, contending that Inslee's upcoming proposals would have economic backlashes for Washington's residents. And that led to the Senate transportation committee Republicans voicing some qualms.
Committee chairman Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, noted that the Washington Truckers Association and the oil industry were not members of Inslee's overall carbon emissions task force. "I see that as a real concern because they have to pay for this," King said.
King and Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, want the state's huge hydropower sector considered as a factor in setting carbon emission limits. And Brown wants nuclear power added as a potential carbon-emissions-limiting measure.
A bipartisan legislative task force has explored boosting nuclear power in Washington, and is scheduled to decide on what it might recommend on Dec. 3.
King also said that constantly improving gas mileages on vehicle will keep trimming Washington's carbon emissions anyway in the future.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, pointed to a contention by the Washington Policy Center — a think tank with a free-market orientation — that there are problems with Inslee's claim that $10 billion in health and business expenses can be saved by 2020 with aggressive anti-carbon measures. The Washington Policy Center questioned the validity of a University of Oregon study that factored in to the $10 billion estimate. In his lengthy analysis of the Oregon study, Todd Myers, the head of the policy center's environmental program, wrote, "Science-based and effective climate policy cannot be built on exaggeration and fear."
At Thursday's meeting, the committee's Democrats just asked clarifying questions of the administration officials explaining the study groups' work.