Washington raises $2B in first year of carbon pollution auctions

A Volvo XC40 electric vehicle

A Volvo XC40 electric vehicle featured at a December 2021 news conference in Olympia where Gov. Jay Inslee announced several climate-related proposals for the 2022 legislative session, including a plan to offer rebates on the purchase of new and used electric vehicles for qualified buyers. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington raised another $370.6 million in its final carbon auction of 2023, bringing the total to slightly more than $2 billion in the first year of the state cap-and-invest program, the Ecology Department announced Wednesday.

Carbon-emitting corporations bid every three months on state allowances for the pollution emitted by their facilities. The winning bidders all pay the same price on those allowances after the auction. The “settlement” prices in the first few Washington auctions were $48.50 for roughly one metric ton of carbon for the first quarter of 2023; $56.01 for the second quarter; $63.03 for the third; and $51.89 for the December auction.

Of the total $2 billion raised through the program, $1.82 billion goes toward environmental investments and another $376 million will go to gas and electric utilities to help ratepayers, especially low-income families.

The cap-and-invest system passed by the Legislature in 2021 is aimed at decreasing carbon emissions to a small fraction of their current levels by 2050.

In addition to clean energy investments, the program has made driving gas-powered vehicles more expensive. It has raised Washington’s price at the pump from 15 to 50 cents per gallon, depending on who is calculating. Republicans have been slamming Gov. Jay Inslee over those increases and a conservative group has been gathering signatures to send an initiative to the Legislature to get Washington out of carbon pricing.

Washington has traditionally had some of the nation’s highest gas prices due to various geographical and economic factors outside of the cap-and-invest program.

For the program’s first two years, the Legislature appropriated $2.1 billion in cap-and-invest revenue for numerous climate mitigation projects. On Monday, Inslee said the state expects to collect $941 million in additional cap-and-invest money in the first half of 2024, bringing the overall income to roughly $3 billion over the system’s first 18 months and adding that much to be spent on climate projects. 

Inslee’s supplemental budget request includes: 

- A one-time $200 credit to the utility bills of roughly 750,000 low- and moderate-income households in Washington. 

- Speeding the transition from diesel school buses to electric school buses across the state. 

- Installing electric heat pumps in low-income multiple-family homes, replacing gas furnaces.

- Providing matching funds for competitive federal grants to bring clean-energy jobs to Washington. 

- Converting a large diesel ferry into a hybrid fuel/electric ferry. As Washington’s ferries are breaking down in increasing numbers, Inslee also said on Monday that future cap-and-invest income could speed up replacing the old ferries with new hybrid ones.

CORRECTION: Fixes the amount raised in the most recent action and how it was distributed.

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Seahawks greats Chancellor, Sherman open Bellevue restaurant

Former Seattle Seahawks players Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman stand in front of the restaurant Legion they are opening in Bellevue with business partner Leilani Wong.

Former Seattle Seahawks Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman stand in front of the restaurant, Legion, they are opening in Bellevue with business partner Leilani Wong. (Rachel Belle/Crosscut)

Former Seattle Seahawks players Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman are opening a new soul-food restaurant and sports bar in Bellevue’s Lincoln Square this week.  

“I love food,” said Chancellor, a longtime safety for the Seahawks. “But the reason I wanted to start a restaurant was years ago I did a barbecue back home in Norfolk, Virginia. I served thousands of people free food and brought the community together and I wanted to stop as much violence as I could. But it was always over food. I love soul food, it’s always been in my heart.” 

The new restaurant is called Legion, a nod to the Legion of Boom (the team’s legendary defensive backfield, which included both Sherman and Chancellor) and serves “upscale soul food.” Chancellor hand-picked Legion’s chef, Reginald Jacob Howell, after eating his cooking at the popular restaurant En Rama in Tacoma.

On the menu are classics like fried chicken and country-fried catfish, and more inventive dishes like a gumbo burger, which includes a shrimp patty, a chicken andouille patty, Holy Trinity rice, herb crab meat, charred pickled okra and roux ketchup.  

This isn’t Sherman’s first taste of the restaurant world; he owned two Wing Stop franchises in Seattle. 

Legion soft-opens tonight, Oct. 3, at 5 p.m. with a limited menu. The full dinner menu will be unveiled on Friday, Oct. 13.  

Legion, located at 700 Bellevue Way N.E., took over the Pearl Seafood and Oyster Bar space, which closed in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.  

Spokane mayoral, City Council president debate tonight at 6 p.m.

Nadine Woodward and Lisa Brown.

Nadine Woodward and Lisa Brown. (Courtesy of the campaigns) 

The Spokane Public Library, in partnership with the Spokane NAACP and Thin Air Community Radio, hosts a mayoral and City Council president forum tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the downtown location, 906 W. Main Ave. 

Listen to the Candidate Forum & Town Hall on Thin Air Community Radio, a nonprofit radio station in Spokane, at 88.1 and 92.3FM, or streaming at KYRS.org. The livestream can also be found here, courtesy of Thin Air Community Radio. 

If interested in attending in person, registration is required

Nonpartisan incumbent Nadine Woodward faces former Democratic state Sen. Lisa Brown in the mayoral race. Current Spokane City Councilmember Betty Wilkerson will participate in tonight’s City Council president forum. Competitor Kim Plese will not be in attendance. 

Additional debates and forums currently planned for Spokane elections will continue through October. Confirmed events include:

  • The Gonzaga University Climate Change Forum will be held on campus at Cataldo Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. All candidates for city office in Spokane have been invited to this event. Currently, Brown has accepted and Woodward has declined to participate.
  • The Rotary Club of Spokane will host a debate for City Council president candidates on Thursday, Oct. 5 from noon to 1 p.m. in partnership with KXLY.
  • The Spokesman-Review will host Spokane mayoral and City Council president debates on Oct. 11 at Gonzaga University. City Council president candidates will take the stage at the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center at 6 p.m., followed by mayoral candidates at 7 p.m.
  • KSPS, Spokane’s local PBS station, will hold City Council debates. Candidates for District 1 will debate on Tuesday, Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon, with candidates from District 2 debating later that day from 2-4 p.m. Northwest Spokane candidates will debate Tuesday, Oct. 17 from 6:30-8 p.m., and Council president candidates will debate Wednesday, Oct. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon.
  • KHQ and Greater Spokane Inc. will jointly host a mayoral debate on Oct. 17. KREM will host a mayoral debate on Oct. 26.

Amid a rising number of drug overdoses locally and nationwide, 13 Washington counties are participating in a new Department of Health dashboard tracking unintentional overdose deaths

The 13 participating counties account for about 88% of statewide overdose deaths. The Department of Health plans to add more counties, with a goal to include data from the entire state. The currently participating counties are: Clallam, Clark, Grays Harbor, Island, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom and Yakima.

The Unintentional Drug Overdose Data dashboard presents the data by demographics, including age, race and ethnicity, industry, gender and other categories; as well as which drug categories are involved and the circumstances in which the overdose occurred. 

The state says the data, collected through the CDC’s State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS), use information from coroner and medical examiner reports, toxicology, autopsy and a prescription-drug monitoring program. The oldest data from Washington’s unintentional deaths dashboard are from 2019.

This state previously made some data available in April on the Opioid and Drug Overdose Data Dashboard. That dashboard shows all overdose deaths, hospitalizations and EMS responses, sortable by residence, age, gender and race/ethnicity, for every county in Washington.

The dashboard is being launched as the state and advocates work to stop the rising rate of drug use and overdoses, including pushing for greater addiction recovery resources and making naloxone, a medication used to reverse opioid overdoses, more available in public places and schools

The Spokane City Council has formally denounced Mayor Nadine Woodward’s appearance at an August event with former state legislator Matt Shea and traveling Christian nationalist pastor Sean Feucht.

The resolution, passed on a vote of 4-3 Monday, says in part: “Spokane City Council formally denounces Mayor Nadine Woodward for her actions that associated her with an alleged domestic terrorist, former Representative Matt Shea, who has participated in the planning of taking arms up against the United States of America, and denounces her preplanned attendance that associates her with known anti-LGBTQ extremist, Sean Feucht, and hateful rhetoric.”

A group of people gathered on a stage and pray.
Matt Shea and Sean Feucht lay hands in prayer on Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward on Aug. 20, 2023 at the Podium. (Courtesy of Joseph Peterson)

Both Shea and Feucht lead movements that couch their right-wing political views in evangelical Christianity

When Shea was in the state House of Representatives, his own caucus, the Washington Republican Caucus, expelled him in 2020 after an investigation accused him of helping to plan the 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, as well as participating in two other armed conflicts against the U.S. government and recruiting militia members. Shea opted not to run for reelection that year and now runs a Christian-based organization that encourages evangelicals to get involved in politics.

Feucht, a musician and megachurch leader from California, tours the U.S. with his Christian revival events, including Let Us Worship, which started as a state-by-state protest against COVID-19 restrictions, and continues today. After accusations of being a Christian nationalist – a person who calls for laws and government to be based on evangelical Christian beliefs – Feucht has embraced the term.

Woodward joined Shea onstage at Feucht’s Aug. 20 Let Us Worship event in Spokane, where Shea led a prayer over her and others running for office this year, according to news organization Range Media. After the event, Woodward denied knowing that Shea would be there and denounced his politics.

Free home COVID tests are back – and here’s how to order them

A photo of two COVID tests show positive results

COVID-19 antigen home tests indicating a positive result, as photographed in New York, April 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)

The federal government is restarting its free COVID-19 home test distribution program, as federal and local health officials get ready for “respiratory virus season.”

Starting Sept. 25, each household will be able to order four tests from the reopened COVIDTests.gov, which also has information on how to check for extended expiration dates on test kits that people might already have at home. 

The restarting of the federal testing program comes as Washington, along with the rest of the United States, sees a slight increase in people testing positive for COVID-19 in the past few months – though at much lower levels than in the previous two fall seasons.

It also comes just after FDA approval of the latest COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which are expected to reach clinics and pharmacies in Washington over the next few weeks.

Washington health officials last week encouraged residents to get updated vaccines, and said that they expect that getting a shot for COVID-19 will be an annual habit similar to the influenza vaccine.

Health officials also encouraged frequent hand-washing and to consider wearing masks to help stem the spread of viral infections during the “respiratory virus season” – the fall and winter months when COVID, influenza (also known as flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are at risk of increased spread. 

The Washington State Department of Health has also launched a Respiratory Illness Data Dashboard, so people can keep track of those three viral infections. 

Court blocks ballot measure to close WA rural library district

The book "What's the T" on a shelf

Juno Dawson’s ‘What’s the T?’ is one of several books that have sparked controversy in Dayton. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

The Dayton Memorial Library in Columbia County will survive, after a court on Wednesday blocked a general-election ballot measure that called for dissolving it.

A Columbia County-based group, Neighbors United for Progress, filed a lawsuit to stop the measure. It had qualified for the November ballot after a petition by people upset by the Columbia County Library District’s placement of LGBTQ+ books for teenagers.

Columbia County Superior Court Commissioner Julie Karl blocked the Columbia County Auditor’s Office from printing ballots with the measure. She said in court that dissolving the library would be an “irreparable loss” to the community because of the diverse services it provides aside from books, noting its resources for people who are low-income or who do not have housing.

The picture shows a brick library building.
The Dayton Memorial Library in Dayton, Wash. (Courtesy of CCRLD)

Neighbors United for Progress also argued that because only Columbia County voters who live outside the Dayton city limits could vote on the measure, it would disenfranchise city residents who pay taxes for the district by violating their rights to representation. The library district’s sole building is within the city limits of Dayton, the largest city in Columbia County.

Earlier this year, community resident Jessica Ruffcorn organized the petition after she and others were upset that minors had access to LGBTQ+ books that they believe have sexual content. The community debate leading to the ballot measure in this rural Washington county mirrors a growing national fight over access to books in schools and libraries throughout the U.S.

Lawsuit against Washington cap-and-trade program set for hearing

Wind turbines in the distance with a road in the foreground.

Wind turbines on a hill near Ellensburg in November 2022. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

The first legal showdown over Washington’s cap-and-trade program, which went into effect in January, will be Sept. 22 in Thurston County Superior Court.

In January the Citizen Action Defense Fund, a watchdog group that focuses on conservative causes, filed a lawsuit against the state that alleges the Legislature crammed multiple subjects into its 2022 transportation bill, including the cap-and-trade program. The complaint alleges that the bill violates the Washington state constitution by covering more than one subject.

In the Sept. 22 hearing, the plaintiff will seek a summary judgment from the judge on its lawsuit.

The lawsuit has two goals, said Jackson Maynard, executive director for the Citizen Action Defense Fund. One is to hold the line on the constitutional rule that limits a bill to one subject. The second is to halt, at least temporarily, the state’s new cap-and trade program.

The Legislature approved the cap-and-trade bill in 2021, but not until last year’s transportation bill was passed could the Washington Department of Ecology set up regulations to put the program into action.

Washington’s cap-and-trade program is designed to decrease carbon emissions in the state to meet 2035 and 2050 decarbonization goals. A 2021 Washington Department of Ecology report estimated the state’s carbon dioxide emissions at 99.57 million tons in 2018. A 2008 state law calls for overall emissions to be reduced to 50 million tons by 2030, to 27 million tons by 2040 and to 5 million tons by 2050.

Under the program, carbon-emitting corporations bid on allowances for the pollution emitted by their facilities. Through a complex system, the winning bidders all pay the same prices during each quarterly auction. Those final prices were $48.50 per allowance (roughly one metric ton of carbon) for the first quarter of 2023; $56.01 per allowance for the second quarter; and $63.03 per allowance for the third quarter.

Washington’s program is often referred to as “cap-and-invest,” because the money raised in the auction is spent on projects meant to slow or adapt to climate change, such as replacing gas-powered buses and ferries with electric versions, building cleaner energy projects and more.

The cap-and-trade bids have been linked to gasoline price increases of 40 cents to 50 cents per gallon. Right now, Washington and California are competing to have the highest gasoline prices in the nation. Washington’s gas prices have traditionally been near the highest in the nation due to a variety of factors, but June was the first time that Washington has posted the highest prices.

The program has raised $1.46 billion so far. The money is earmarked for a large number of programs to combat climate change, which has been linked to increasing problems with health, agriculture, fish and wildfires.

“I’m not convinced the money generated from Washington’s cap-and-trade system will help the environment,” said Dann Mead Smith of the fund’s board of directors. 

Negating the state’s 2022 rule-making capabilities on cap-and-trade will temporarily stop the program, which will translate to lower gasoline prices, Smith said.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office does not comment on ongoing litigation, said spokesman Mike Faulk. “However, laws are presumed constitutional and the challenging party bears the heavy burden of establishing its unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt; and the Legislature routinely passes omnibus revenue measures with an intentionally broad title,” Faulk said.

Former Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna is on the attorney advisory council for the defense fund. 

Other conservative groups are trying additional avenues to attempt to block the new law. The advocacy organization Let’s Go Washington is gathering signatures on petitions to ask the Washington Legislature to repeal the state’s new carbon-pricing system.

Let’s Go Washington has to collect 324,516 valid signatures by Dec. 29 to submit to the Legislature any of the six petitions it is developing. If the Legislature decides not to act on the petitions with enough signatures in its 2024 session, they would go on the election ballot for the November 2024 election.

Democrats have significant majorities in both the Washington House and Senate, meaning any successful petition would likely receive a chilly reception.

Seattle City Councilmember wants to stagger election years

buttons and stickers saying "i voted" sit on a table

“I Voted” stickers at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Jovelle Tamayo for Crosscut)

Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda wants to shift future Council elections to limit mass turnover of councilmembers and the brain drain of institutional knowledge that comes with it.

The City Council comprises seven district representatives and two citywide at-large positions, all of which are four-year terms. The district elections and at-large elections are held two years apart.

Mosqueda is proposing staggering elections instead of electing all seven district positions at once, which Seattle voters have done since 2015. In addition, she wants to move election years for one of the Council’s two at-large positions.

This November’s district Council elections illustrate how the current system sets Seattle up for potential major change every four years.

This year, only three of seven district councilmembers are seeking reelection, guaranteeing at least four new faces in City Hall next year. And of course the three incumbents could also lose their races. On top of it all, Mosqueda, an at-large councilmember, is running for King County Council and has a strong chance of winning, so it’s possible eight out of nine city councilors will be new to the job next year. 

“I think this would be a really positive way for us to ensure greater stability and continuity as we look to serve members of the community and help reduce a large number of seats turning over all at once,” said Mosqueda during the Sept. 14 Finance and Housing Committee meeting.

Mosqueda’s proposal is to shift the elections for Districts 2, 4 and 6 by two years to align with at-large position 8, as well as with mayoral and city attorney elections. She has also proposed moving elections for at-large position 9 by two years so it aligns with elections for odd-numbered district Council positions.

To make that election shuffle work, there would need to be elections for special two-year terms for Council position 9 and district positions 2, 4 and 6. These positions would then run again for their regular four-year terms, and the new system would be fully in place by 2030.

a chart showing how elections will be staggered
A chart by City Council central staff showing how the system would be implemented over six years.

Seattle voters created the district City Council system with the passage of a 2013 ballot measure, Charter Amendment 19.

Councilmembers Alex Pedersen, Lisa Herbold and Sara Nelson expressed varying degrees of concern about staggering Positions 8 and 9, the two at-large elections. Nelson said that the original intent of running at-large elections at the same time as mayoral elections was to force an at-large councilmember to choose between their own reelection or to run for mayor.

The logic, as Nelson explained it, is to prevent a scenario where an at-large councilmember runs for mayor, loses, then spends the rest of their Council term at odds with the winning executive. Granted, there’s nothing stopping a district councilmember from running a losing campaign for mayor, keeping their seat for the remainder of their term and finding themselves similarly at odds.

For Mosqueda’s proposal to become reality, the full City Council would first need to adopt a resolution in support of the idea. It would then be up to Seattle voters to pass a charter amendment on the November 2024 ballot.

Inslee, Gregoire endorse Bob Ferguson for Washington governor

A picture of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is running for governor.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. (Courtesy of Bob Ferguson)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine and former Gov. Chris Gregoire have endorsed Bob Ferguson for governor in 2024. 

The announcements came this weekend as Ferguson, the state attorney general, officially kicked off his gubernatorial bid with campaign stops in Seattle, Spokane and the Tri-Cities, according to a news release.

“I’ve worked closely with Bob Ferguson and watched him work to hold powerful interests accountable and defend the core freedoms, including reproductive freedom, of every Washingtonian,” Inslee said in a statement distributed by the Ferguson campaign. “He knows how to win and deliver for Washingtonians."

With Inslee opting not to run again after three terms, the open governor's contest has drawn two fellow Democratic statewide elected officials: Ferguson and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz. In a statement Monday, the Franz campaign announced endorsements by the local firefighter unions in Bellevue and Shoreline. They “join hundreds of other firefighters in Vancouver, Wenatchee, Spokane, Spokane County, and Walla Walla in endorsing Franz for governor,” according to the statement.

Also running is state Sen. Mark Mullet, a moderate Democrat from Issaquah, who has previously clashed with Inslee. In a social media post ahead of the weekend’s endorsement announcement, Mullet characterized Washington’s high prices for housing and fuel in recent years, declaring, “Gov. Inslee’s endorsement of my opponent indicates there will be more of the same under his leadership.”

The race has also drawn former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, a moderate Republican, and Semi Bird, a conservative who was recalled last month by voters from his position as Richland School Board member. The August 2024 primary election will narrow the field of these and other candidates to the two top vote-getters, who will advance to the November 2024 ballot.

Federal judge lifts most judicial oversight of Seattle police

Seattle Police in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood

Members of the Seattle Police Department on Capitol Hill, July 25, 2020. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

A federal judge has ended most judicial oversight of the Seattle Police Department, nearly a dozen years after a federal “consent decree” was issued demanding reform.

U.S. District Judge James Robart said on Wednesday he would continue to monitor Seattle Police in the following areas: officer accountability, including decisions reached during collective bargaining, and use of force in crowd management. But Robart essentially agreed with the city and the U.S. Justice Department that Seattle Police had met most of the requirements of the consent decree.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell called the judge’s ruling a critical milestone in the city’s efforts to reform policing, and said it showed the department had made significant changes in its approach to crime, behavioral health incidents and professional standards.

“I am grateful for the excellent work of our police officers that brought us to this point,” the mayor said in a statement. “I am also thankful for the people of Seattle who have, from the beginning of this journey 12 years ago, wanted a police service that is fair, respectful, and effective in keeping everyone safe in every neighborhood.”

The mayor acknowledged there was still work to do in improving police accountability, and promised to keep working with the citizen advisory board to make sure reforms are maintained.