Gov. Inslee's climate change bill passes, controversy continues

Mar 26, 2013

A bill put forward by Gov. Jay Inslee directing the state to figure out how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has passed both houses of the Legislature.

The passage is a big step forward for the environmental lobby and the governor, who has championed clean energy. But there is still a lot of pushback in Olympia.

The new law aims to help Washington reach goals on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that it passed five years ago by bringing emissions down to levels seen 1990, over the next seven years.

An independent consultant will study efforts in other states and Canad  to see what kinds of investments would make the most sense here — the new cap-and-trade system in California, for example, or a carbon tax like the one in British Columbia.

Brendon Cechovic, executive director of Washington Conservation Voters, says the move is a first step in the governor’s plan to strengthen the economy and address climate change at the same time.

“And what really excites us about this — and I know the governor feels the same way — is we were able to pass these bills in bipartisan fashion through the legislature, which is divided politically,” Chechovich said.

But in order to get it through, they had to strip the original law of language linking climate change to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental problems including sea level rise or frequent storms. Sen. Doug Ericksen, the Republican chair of the Senate Environment Committee, says he voted for the bill only after those adjustments were made.

“I believe that we can be working for a clean environment without having to go down the path of blaming it all on global warming,” Ericksen said.

To underscore his point, he has invited retired Bellingham professor Don Easterbrook to testify before the Senate environment committee. Ericksen says Eastrbrook's views are a counterpoint to the governor's testimony, which connects climate change and environmental problems.

The controversy is getting national attention. The presentation will be taped by a documentary film crew from Showtime, which is following Washington’s climate change debate.