Inslee's cap-and-trade bill needs more votes

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Gov. Jay Inslee's plan to trim carbon emissions made it out of the House Environment Committee on Tuesday by a 6-to-5 party-line vote.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley and ranking Republican on the committee, questioned the push for more action on greenhouse gases. "Washington state has been a leader (in tackling carbon emissions) despite ... evidence that has shown no warming for 20 years," he said. "Let’s not do a huge omnibus bill that affects our way of life in Washington."

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Des Moines and sponsor of the bill containing Inslee's proposal, took as one-step-at-a-time approach on the legislation, which went through technical tweaks before passing with six Democratic votes. "We're going to have to do a lot more work on this bill."

Because of the bill's impacts on the state's revenue and budget, it could now go to the House Appropriations Committee, the Finance Committee or both. That decision has not been made yet.

Inslee's plan calls for roughly 130 of Washington's biggest polluters to pay for permission to produce specific amounts of carbon emissions, which scientists have linked to global warming. If that system is installed, polluters would be allowed to trade or sell their pollution quotas to other businesses.

The governor's approach is predicted to raise $1 billion a year, with Inslee wanting the money to be divided among transportation, education, support for Washington businesses competing against out-of-state and foreign firms, and tax credit checks for roughly 500,000 lower-income families.

Inslee hopes to reduce statewide carbon emissions to achieve greenhouse-gas limits that the Legislature set in a 2008 law. That measure set a goal of reducing the state's greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with further trimming of emissions later. On Tuesday, the reference to "1990 levels" was replaced with a specified goal of 88.4 million metric tons of carbon emissions, which is what the 1990 level was. Committee members wanted the goal to be specifically defined.

Senate Republicans have their own carbon emissions plans, including giving some utilities credits for alternative fuel use if they switch to electric vehicles and using liquefied natural gas as fuel in ferries. The GOP proposal tackles a tiny fraction of what Inslee's plan addresses, but includes no taxes. Conceivably, the two plans could coexist because they tackle different parts of the greenhouse gases problem.

Fitzgibbon’s bill will need 50 votes -- with most if not all likely to be Democrats -- to pass the House before it will go to a Republican-controlled Senate, which has been skeptical about Inslee's overall concept. He said, “We’re close to 50."


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8