Washington State Announces Effort To Take Climate Fight Into Its Own Hands


Washington Gov. Jay Inslee giving the State of the State address

Even as a climate change stalemate persists in Washington, D.C., the other Washington is embarking on a broad-based effort to reduce carbon pollution and expand the use of clean energy.

On Tuesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order that creates a task force on reducing carbon emissions and directs it to design a “cap-and-market” program to meet emission goals. That program would set firm limits on carbon emissions and binding requirements to meet the limits.

Inslee’s directive also orders state agencies to concentrate in five other areas: reducing and eventually eliminating the use of coal to produce electric power; developing and promoting the use of clean transportation and transportation fuels; spurring the development and use of renewable energy; developing a “smart building program” to increase energy efficiency in public and private buildings; and cutting the state government’s own carbon footprint.

“This is the right time to act, the right place to act, and we are the right people to act,” Inslee said in announcing the executive order. Most elements of the plan will require legislative approval or funding.

Six years ago the Washington legislature set a timeline for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the near, mid, and long term, but the state is not on track to meet those reduction goals without changes in policies, according to a consultant retained by a state climate workgroup.

The carbon reduction roadmap outlined Tuesday comes six months after Inslee and the governors of Oregon and California and the premier of British Columbia pledged to work together in a “far-reaching strategic alignment to combat climate change and promote clean energy.” That non-binding agreement called on Washington and Oregon to develop carbon pricing programs, as California already has, to implement clean fuel standards and to promote clean energy and energy efficiency.

Elsewhere in the northwest, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is also taking strong stands against climate change. In an April 19 keynote address to the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Kitzhaber said “it is time to once and for all to say no to coal exports from the Pacific Northwest.”

Oregon is home to one of three proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest that would allow for coal producers in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana to ship coal to Asia. Those plans have spurred a broad-based opposition movement stretching from the northern Plains to the coast and including environmental activists, Native American tribes and ranchers.

Kitzhaber said he expects a state agency to reach a final decision on the proposed port on the Columbia River in Oregon by the end of May.

But the governor said he would “do all that I can within the context of existing Oregon law to ensure that we do not commit ourselves to a coal-dependent future….The future for Oregon and the West Coast does not lie in 19th century energy sources.”