WA moves toward partnership with CA, Quebec cap-and-trade systems

filling up a vehicle with gas

In a 2023 photo, a motorist fills a tank at a Shell station in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Washington Legislature has voted along party lines to adjust its carbon pricing system to make it compatible with the cap-and-trade systems in California and Quebec.

House approved Senate Bill 6058, on a vote of 57-39 Thursday. The Senate passed the measure on Feb. 12. Now the two houses will have to reconcile minor differences in the bills they passed before it can be sent to the governor's desk.

Washington is negotiating with California and Quebec on meshing their three carbon markets. Supporters of the move expect a bigger market would bring down carbon emission auction prices, which would lead to lower fuel costs.

The earliest that the proposed alliance could take place is 2025. Lurking in the background is a November referendum on whether to repeal Washington’s cap-and-invest program, which is blamed for some gas price increases.

Washington’s carbon polluters, including oil companies, bid every three months on the amounts of carbon emissions they can release. The volume of allowances is limited, which has driven up auction bids. Washington’s carbon auction prices have been higher than those in California. This past year, however, California’s gas prices have been frequently, but not always, higher than Washington’s.

The cap-and-invest system is one of numerous factors affecting the rise and fall in Washington’s gas prices. 

Republicans opposed the bill Thursday, spending the majority of a more than four hour debate slamming the program and its association with gas prices. Republicans also said they did not like tying Washington’s program with a much larger California economy and its own unique ups and downs. They also voiced skepticism about claims that a larger market would decrease gas prices in the Evergreen State.

“We’re going into an agreement without a clear understanding of the partners we want a relationship with,” said Rep. Keith Goehner, R-Dryden.

“Fools rush in. We should not rush into any linkage,” said Rep Jim Walsh, R-Abderdeen, who is also one of the leaders of the initiative to repeal Washington’s cap-and-invest program.

Majority Leader Joe Fitzgibbon, D-West Seattle, noted that a common argument against Washington’s efforts to combat climate change is that one state’s efforts won’t have an effect on global warming. He said a Washington-California-Quebec market would have a greater impact on reducing carbon emissions.

Fitzgibbon also noted New York, Massachusetts and Maryland are watching Washington and this potential alliance with thoughts about creating their own cap-and-trade programs to eventually join this bigger market.

The biggest change from SB 6058 would be allowing a single bidder in a quarterly auction to obtain up to 25 percent of the allowances for sale. Currently, the limit for a single auction is 10 percent. However, a single corporation would still be limited to obtaining no more than 10 percent of allowances offered in a calendar year.

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PBS News Hour reports that former President Donald Trump’s campaign said in a statement that he was “fine” after being whisked off the stage at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania after apparent gunshots rang through the crowd. 

Video of the incident quickly spread on social media Saturday afternoon, showing Trump grab his ear before falling to the ground and being surrounded by Secret Service agents. He later arose with blood on the side of his face, before being escorted off stage.  

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What’s back, on hold six weeks after Seattle library cyberattack?

A sign on a shelf asks patrons to keep their books, CDs and DVDs because the library cannot currently check them back in.

Because employees of the Central Library have had to manually check in books when they are returned, the library is asking patrons to hold onto their physical books, CDs and DVDs until the system is running again. (Caroline Walker Evans for Cascade PBS) 

Six weeks after a ransomware attack at Seattle Public Library took out many services, wi-fi and printing are now available again at all branches, and the Peak Picks program for popular titles is  expected to make a comeback next week. 

But it could be several more weeks before patrons will be able to return books or place them on hold, according to the library’s blog.

Not everything at the library has yet been restored following  the attack that impacted services over Memorial Day weekend. The library is expecting most of its services to be restored in the next five to seven weeks, according to its blog. The public computers, which many patrons use for job searches and homework, are expected to come back online in mid-to-late August. 

While patrons have access to E-books, audio books and physical items, they can place holds on or return only E-books and audio books. The ability to place physical items on hold could be available in late July or August, according to the library, and they have asked patrons to hold on to the physical books they have borrowed. There is no estimated date for when the library will start accepting returns.                               

All digital services were restored and are now available for use, including the library website, streaming services like Hoopla and Kanopy, Museum Pass, Seattle Room Digital Collections, online newspapers and magazines, and learning tools for students and adults like tutoring and homework help. 

Despite the ransomware attack, the library has continued to hold in-person events such as  author signings, family story times and more. All locations and spaces, like meeting rooms or study spaces, are still open during normal business hours. New patrons can sign up for new library cards in person, but they won’t be able to sign up online until late July or early August. 

Staff are able to answer questions in person or through phone and email. The library hopes to restore the online chat on Monday, July 15. 

New Spokane Police chief Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall will serve as Spokane’s new police chief after spending three decades with the Tucson Police Department. (Photo courtesy of the City of Spokane)

Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown named Kevin Hall as chief of police, the latest in a number of new hires since she entered office earlier this year.

Hall, who will oversee the police department for the second-largest city in the state, comes to Spokane from Arizona, where he spent more than three decades with the Tucson Police Department. Most recently, he served as the department’s assistant chief of police.

Former chief Craig Meidl left the Spokane Police Department at the end of last year and is currently working as interim chief for the Richland Police Department. Assistant Police Chief Justin Lundgren has been serving as interim chief since early this year.

A start date for Hall is to be determined, but city officials said they expect him to start before Sept. 1.

The police chief selection committee included a cross-section of city leaders, advocates, business owners and industry leaders, including Dave Dunkin, president of the Spokane Police Guild; Spokane City Councilmembers Michael Cathcart and Paul Dillon; and Dr. Luis Manriquez, assistant clinical professor at Washington State University’s Floyd College of Medicine.

Hall was selected from a group of four finalists, which included Tom Worthy, police chief in The Dalles, Ore.; Matthew Murray, who recently served as chief of police in Yakima; and Col. Kathleen Lanier from the Memphis Police Department.

With Hall’s selection, Mayor Brown, who defeated former Mayor Nadine Woodward last year, has filled the last significant vacancy in her leadership team. Most recently, in April, Brown appointed Julie O’Berg as chief of the Spokane Fire Department, a position she had held on an interim basis for several months.

In an interview with Cascade PBS earlier this year, Brown said that she was searching for a police chief who was a good communicator and open to innovative practices from around the U.S. and tackling the city’s ongoing budget deficit.

Earlier this month, Brown declared a state of emergency to address the city’s opioid crisis. Among the strategies to combat the crisis is to work with law enforcement at all levels to deal with the ongoing drug market in the corridor of Second and Division streets.

Along with announcing the selection of Hall as police chief, the Spokane City Council also announced they would seek volunteer committee members to provide feedback for and against a community safety ballot measure that would increase the sales tax by 0.1%, with exemptions for food, prescription drugs and other necessities. The city estimates the new tax will raise $6.5 million in revenue annually. Among their plans for the money are upgrades and replacements to fire equipment, a relaunch of the city’s neighborhood resource officer program, and the expansion of its capacity to respond to extreme weather conditions. Brown had announced the sales tax proposal earlier in the week.

Burn ban issued for Washington forest lands through Sept. 30

Smoke from wildfire at the Washington state Capitol

In this Sept. 12, 2020, file photo, smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California create hazy skies above the Washington state Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Washington Department of Resources has implemented a statewide burn ban for state forest lands in response to dry summer weather conditions that increase wildfire danger.

The state agency is implementing the ban in response to dry summer weather conditions that increase wildfire danger statewide. The DNR is looking to reduce potential wildfire ignition as firefighters respond to several fires already raging across the state. Much of the state, which has been experiencing a heat wave in recent days, is under high, very high or extreme fire danger.

Under the ban, which began Wednesday afternoon, outdoor burning will be prohibited on any forest lands under DNR fire protection through Sept. 30. This includes campfires and charcoal briquettes. Depending on fire conditions, the DNR may extend or shorten the ban period.

The DNR ban does not include burning on private land or on local, state or federal park lands. But local bans may be in effect. The Washington Department of Ecology keeps track of some other burn bans, and local fire agencies issue others. For example, King County is under a Stage 1 Burn Ban, which means residents cannot burn yard debris, but recreational fires are OK. King County restrictions do not usually impact cities like Seattle, which has its own regulations and bans.

The Washington Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously dismissed a challenge to a Lacey law targeting homeless people living in recreational vehicles.

The plaintiff in the case, Jack Potter, left the Lacey City Hall parking lot in 2019 under threat of impound after the city passed an ordinance that prohibited RVs and other large vehicles from parking on city streets or parking lots for more than four hours. He relocated his trailer to Olympia.

The decision comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that cities may ban homeless people from sleeping outdoors even if they do not first offer shelter. Cities have already begun proposing stricter anti-camping laws in the days since the ruling.

Attorneys for the Northwest Justice Project, the ACLU and the National Homelessness Law Center portrayed the Thurston County suburb’s law as part of a wave of anti-homeless ordinances seeking to “banish” homeless people from the city. 

A federal district court judge sided with the city of Lacey in 2021. Potter then appealed to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked the Washington Supreme Court to decide.

The Washington court’s ruling in the RV case concerned narrower legal questions than the Grants Pass homeless camping decision.

Potter’s challenge invoked a “right to travel” under the Washington Constitution, which he argued included a right to remain in place. Lawyers for the city defended the law as being within the city’s legal authority to regulate parking and said it applies equally to everyone.

The justices found Potter’s argument unpersuasive, writing that the right to travel does not confer a right to reside in a particular manner and does not protect “his preferred method of residing in Lacey: by siting his 23-foot trailer on a public street in violation of generally applicable parking ordinances.”

The state has fined The Home Depot $1.6 million for selling illegal hydrofluorocarbon products after two years of trying to get the corporation to comply with the law, the state Ecology Department announced Thursday.

The Legislature passed laws in 2019 and 2021 to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbon products or HFCs. They are used mostly for refrigeration and air conditioning and can leak into the air if the equipment is damaged. According to Ecology, HFCs have hundreds of times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.

One of the new state restrictions banned the sale of R-134a canisters at retail stores beginning in July 2021. R-134a is an HFC refrigerant used in automotive air conditioning systems with a global warming potential 1,430 times that of carbon dioxide, the news release said. Vehicle manufacturers had already begun phasing out the use of R-134a.

However, the Home Depot’s website continued to sell equipment with R-134a refrigerants through at least September 2023, according to Ecology. The Home Depot informed Ecology that it sold 1,058 units of the prohibited products in Washington between April 12, 2022, and Sept. 5, 2023, the state news release said.

“Restricting HFC products and equipment is key to achieving the state’s statutory greenhouse gas emission limits and ultimately getting to net zero by 2050,” said Joel Creswell, head of the Ecology Department’s Climate Pollution Reduction Program, in the news release. “HFCs safely sealed inside air-conditioning systems can be recovered, recycled and reused, but when they leak out, they become a major contributor to climate change.”

A 2008 state law that sets Washington’s carbon-reduction targets of 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, 70 percent by 2040 and 95 percent by 2050. 

WA Supreme Court says state can have a say in local evictions

Washington's Supreme Court Building

Washington’s Supreme Court Building. (Jovelle Tamayo for Cascade PBS)

The Washington Supreme Court ruled last week that Attorney General Bob Ferguson can continue pursuing a lawsuit against the city of Sunnyside.

Cities across the state have implemented a crime-free rental housing program in which landlords, tenants and law enforcement work together to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in rental properties.

In its 2020 lawsuit, the state claims that Sunnyside, in Yakima County, abused the program by forcing tenants out of their homes over unsubstantiated claims of crime or nuisance without a court order. The lawsuit said dozens of residents were forced out of their homes with little or no notice. The majority of the 43 alleged unlawful evictions between 2014 and 2019 involved Latino residents, women or families with children.

The state claimed that through unlawful evictions, the city’s law enforcement officers did not comply with provisions of the U.S. and state constitutions, the federal Fair Housing Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

Yakima County Superior Court granted a summary judgment, agreeing with the city of Sunnyside that the state lacked the authority to pursue legal action for a variety of reasons, including that the city could not be subject to liability under the state’s Rental Landlord Tenant Act and that the attorney general is not authorized to enforce the private rights of a small number of individuals.

The Washington Supreme Court reversed that summary judgment. The court ruled that the state has an “interest in protecting the health, safety, and well-being of its residents, including holding government actors accountable against allegations of discrimination and violations of constitutional rights.” It also ruled that the state’s claims address matters of public concern, including the lawful operation of crime-free rental housing programs, protection of Washingtonians’ civil rights and prevention of police misconduct.

While the Supreme Court reversed the summary judgment, it let stand the Court’s dismissal of the state’s claim that the city of Sunnyside violated the Resident-Landlord Tenant Act. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Yakima court for further proceedings.

SCOTUS backs Starbucks in case over reinstating fired workers

A green Starbucks signs streaks against a blue background in a slow-shutter image.

The Starbucks logo at the Fifth Avenue and Pike Street location as workers hand out flyers to customers with information about stalled union negotiations on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (Lindsey Wasson for Cascade PBS)

A U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday sided with Starbucks in a dispute over the firing of pro-union workers in a ruling that could restrict the National Labor Relations Board’s future authority to intervene when workers accuse companies of illegally suppressing union organizing. 

The case centers around seven baristas in Memphis, Tennessee, who alleged that Starbucks fired them for trying to unionize their store. The NLRB sided with the workers, and because it can take years for an unfair labor practice complaint to go through the legal process, the agency asked a judge for an injunction reinstating the workers, which was granted.

Starbucks had accused the baristas of violating store policies, and contested the legal standard the judge had used to impose the injunction. The Supreme Court agreed the lower court’s legal test was too broad and inconsistent with those of other courts. 

The NLRB did not comment on the decision, but instead pointed to a statement the agency’s General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo made during Supreme Court arguments in April. 

“Without obtaining this temporary relief,” Abruzzo said, “the lawbreaker will fully reap the benefits of having violated workers’ rights — such as by snuffing out a nascent organizing drive — through the passage of time, because a Board remedy in due course will come too late to sufficiently address the harm.”

In February, Starbucks announced a new path forward for contract negotiation, setting a goal of ratification of a contract in 2024, after years of impasse. Union members told Cascade PBS those renewed talks had been productive during initial negotiations. 

“We remain focused on making progress toward our goal of reaching ratified contracts for represented stores this year,” Starbucks wrote in a statement after the decision. “Consistent federal standards are important in ensuring that employees know their rights and consistent labor practices are upheld no matter where in the country they work and live.”

Lynne Fox, president of Workers United, the union representing the Starbucks employees, called the court’s ruling egregious. Fox also argued the company should have dropped the case earlier this year when it committed to a new path in bargaining. 

“Working people have so few tools to protect and defend themselves when their employers break the law,” Fox wrote in a statement

More than 10,000 workers at 437 stores have joined Workers United since unionizing efforts began at Starbucks cafes in December 2021. A Cascade PBS investigation explored early negotiations between Starbucks and the union, and examined the role of the National Labor Relations Board in adjudicating hundreds of related unfair labor-practice complaints.

WA carbon prices lower than expected in second year of auctions

The Tesoro Corp. refinery, including a gas flare flame, in Anacortes, Washington.

The Tesoro Corp. refinery, including a gas flare flame, in Anacortes, Washington. (Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

Washington has fallen short of its original predictions of how much money its cap-and-invest program would raise in the first half of 2024; the actual total for the first half of the year is about $324.5 million. 

Late last year, state officials predicted that carbon pricing auctions would raise $941 million in the first half of this year. But auction prices have dropped dramatically. 

Carbon-emitting corporations, including oil companies, bid every three months on state allowances for their pollution emissions. 

During 2023, quarterly auction prices ranged from $48.50 for roughly one metric ton of carbon in the first quarter to $63.03 in the third. Those prices were significantly higher than expected, and were blamed for adding 21 to 50 cents per gallon to Washington’s traditionally high gas prices.

In 2024, the first-quarter auction price was $25.76 per allowance, which raised $135.5 million. The second-quarter auction price — publicly announced Wednesday — was $29.92 per allowance, raising roughly $189 million.

Reasons for auction price decreases are unknown, but there has been speculation. One theory is that bidders are unwilling to spend money on a program that could disappear at the end of 2024, when voters decide on a state initiative to repeal the cap-and-invest program. Others believe Washington’s carbon market is stabilizing and that bidders are becoming more savvy about the way they approach the quarterly auctions. 

While larger auction prices have been linked to higher gasoline prices, too many extra factors cloud any precise correlations. Numerous economic, geographic and other factors affect the rise and fall of Washington’s prices at the pump. For decades, Washington’s gasoline prices have been among the highest in the nation. On Wednesday, Washington’s average price for regular gas was $4.38 per gallon, compared to a national average of $3.45, according to AAA.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce announces plans to step down in 2025

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce. (Photo: University of Washington)

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce announced Wednesday that she will step down from her position in June 2025 and return to the faculty after 10 years at the helm.

Cauce has been president of the state’s largest public university since 2015 and a faculty member or administrator there since 1986. Immediately before serving as president, Cauce was the provost of the school. She also has served as the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and headed the departments of American Ethnic Studies and Psychology.

Cauce was the first woman to be named permanently to be UW president, as well as the first Latina and the first openly gay person to serve in the role. 

Cauce, who immigrated as a child from Cuba to Miami with her family, first came to UW as an assistant professor of psychology. She became interim president in 2015 after the departure of Michael K. Young. Cauce was given the top spot permanently later that year.

Cauce will step down at the end of her second five-year contract with the University of Washington. Her departure will come at the same time as Washington State University President Kirk Schulz also plans to step down. Schulz, who has headed WSU since 2016, announced his plans to depart earlier this year.