Washington is in hot water. While the orchards of Central Washington and the rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula remain scorched by this summer’s deadly wildfires, climate action still sits impatiently on the backburner in Olympia. In fact, the state legislature is currently considering a bill that would prolong this inaction and severely restrict opportunities for Washington to make any progress towards reducing carbon pollution.
Submitted by Senate Republicans, SB 6173 aims to derail the Clean Air Rule and the Clean Power Plan by prohibiting the governor and other agencies from developing rules that limit, cap, or control the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
Why would Washington want to further restrict its ability to take meaningful action to curb carbon pollution when legislative gridlock in Olympia has repeatedly stifled any opportunity for Washington to do just that?
The Clean Air Rule and the Clean Power Plan are much needed responses to this inaction; respectively holding the state’s and the nation’s biggest emitters accountable for pollution.
Gutting the Clean Air Rule
Last summer Governor Inslee directed the Washington State Department of Ecology to adopt a rule to enforce the existing emissions targets that the Legislature adopted in 2008. The Clean Air Rule establishes an economy-wide cap on carbon emissions by requiring the state’s largest polluters to gradually reduce emissions while at the same time cutting other dangerous air pollutants that harm all Washington residents.
The rule has the potential to establish a model for other states to follow, addressing the urgent need for action as communities across the U.S. continue to be devastated by extreme weather events of the type that human-caused global warming is expected to make more frequent. As Ecology Director Maia Bellon observes, “This year’s record-setting drought and wildfires are sobering examples of what our future will look like if we don’t take action on climate change. We need to do our part to protect what we have for future generations. We can’t afford the cost of inaction.”
SB 6173 would remove the Governor’s legal authority to enact carbon-capping regulations like the Clean Air Rule, indefinitely delaying climate policy with gridlock in the legislature.
Crippling the Clean Power Plan
In August, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The Clean Power Plan is an unprecedented step towards gradually reducing emissions from the nation’s power grid—the largest source of pollution in the U.S. The Clean Power Plan offers a flexible framework under which states can either meet the EPA-established carbon emission reduction targets or submit a plan that is better suited for their state. This framework offers an opportunity for states to cut their emissions while strengthening their clean energy economies.[ed. note: Last week, a Supreme Court ruling stayed the Clean Power Plan, pending resolution of legal arguments.]
SB 6173 would restrict Washington’s ability to maximize emission reductions and boost the clean energy economy by stripping it of the freedom to choose its own compliance path for the Clean Power Plan. The result would be a readymade plan from DC which recognizes neither the choices Washington voters have made to clean up our electricity grid, nor the unique circumstances governing our region and state.
We cannot hope to create a clean energy economy, let alone tackle climate change, by prohibiting processes that are essential for making meaningful progress to reduce carbon emissions. If you are interested in real progress on climate and clean energy, help move climate action off the backburner and oppose SB 6173.