RITZVILLE, Wash. — Farmers and small businesses will bear the brunt of Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive order to reduce carbon emissions, eliminate coal power and fund green energy projects, says the leader of the state Senate.
Sen. Mark Schoesler, a Ritzville wheat farmer, is Republican leader of the Senate that controls that body in a coalition with two Democrats.
“Once again Gov. Inslee has gone around the Legislature and anyone that might disagree with him,” Schoesler said. “If you look at the makeup of the committee (Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force) that he assembled in secret, there’s only one representative from Eastern Washington. It’s pretty much ignored which is typical. It’s stacked with big business, big unions and big environmentalists and really farmers and small business are pretty much absent.”
Inslee signed an executive order April 29 to implement a cap-and-trade program to meet climate goals adopted by the Legislature in 2008. Those goals include a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. The order requires state regulators work with utilities to ban coal as a source of electricity.
“This is the right time to act,” Inslee said, adding that it is required by law.
At one point, the governor read from a statute that requires the state to return to 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2020, and for greater reductions beyond that.
Inslee’s action plan sets up a carbon emissions-reduction task force that includes labor and community groups as well as businesses such as Alaska Air Group and Puget Sound Energy. They began meeting Tuesday.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale and chair of the Senate’s energy committee, told The Seattle Times that he was irritated Inslee did not inform him and other Republican lawmakers of his announcement. Ericksen said the governor’s effort will drive jobs out of the state.
Schoesler told Capital Press that he received less than a 24-hour notice and that the Association of Washington Business didn’t know.
“I would guess the Farm Bureau and others weren’t asked to be part of it because they wanted a pre-determined outcome of more regulation and cost. You are either one of Jay’s friends or you are locked out,” Schoesler said.
“We had a bipartisan group working on climate change, but when the governor didn’t get the answers he wanted he came back with this,” he said.
While coal plants in Washington are waning, Puget Sound Energy and maybe other energy companies buy electricity from coal plants in other states, Schoesler said. If that ends, power costs will go up which hurts small business and farmers, he said.
Low-carbon fuel requires a form of ethanol that requires less energy, Schoesler said. It could come at an increase cost of more than $1 more per gallon while proponents argue the worst case is 17 cents more, he said.
“Working families will bear the brunt of that,” he said.
“The manufacturing of cement is a huge carbon emitter, but try building anything without cement,” he said. “Try to operate a farm or a small business without fuel or electricity. This is an assault on the little guy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.