A climate-change agenda outlined Monday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee calls for banning coal by 2025, mandating reductions in vehicle emissions and spending millions on energy-efficient buildings and to subsidize electric vehicles.
The package does not not include a fee on greenhouse gases. Speaking at a press conference in Seattle, Inslee didn't rule out a carbon tax passing in 2019.
The policy has been repeatedly rejected by lawmakers and voters, but Democrats widened their majorities in the House and Senate in November. Climate-change legislation should be helped by "nine or 10" newly elected "climate warriors," the governor said.
"We know this is the greatest endeavor of our time," Inslee said. "We climate hawks do not fear the world. We lead it."
Farm groups have generally opposed Inslee's past proposals to tax or cap carbon emissions or mandate alternatives to fossil fuels for transportation. The groups argue that the policies would raise production and transportation costs for farmers.
Inslee said inaction will hurt farmers. He said people care more about the effects of climate change than whether he's burnishing his credentials for a 2020 run for president. He referred to damages that the Washington State Department of Agriculture documented from the 2015 drought.
"I think they care about the fact we lost $633 million of agricultural production," Inslee said.
Climatologists attributed the 2015 drought primarily to unusually high ocean temperatures, not human-influenced climate change, though many warn the drought could foreshadow the future if carbon emissions are not reduced.
Inslee said his proposals would represent a "big leap for Washington," but not enough to meet the objectives in the Paris accord on climate change. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement, but Inslee and governors in 15 other states have formed an alliance to uphold the goals.
"Let's be clear, we will need some additional steps in order to meet our Paris agreements and our commitment to our children," Inslee said.
Inslee has struggled to convince the public to accept climate-change legislation, and so have activists. In November, a carbon tax was rejected by 56 percent of the voters.
Senate Energy, Climate and Technology Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said Democrats were ready to deliver.
"I'm proud that the new Democratic majority in the Washington state Legislature is embracing climate directly, forcefully, passionately, unequivocally and with a deep sense of conviction," he said.
The governor's office provided promotional material on his proposals, but has not released drafts of legislation.
Washington Policy Center environmental director Todd Myers called the governor's package a "top-down regulatory approach."
"The proposal promises to spend money on several projects that are politically popular, but extremely wasteful," he wrote in an email sent to the media.
The governor proposes to prohibit utilities from distributing coal-generated electricity by 2025, the year Washington's only coal-fired power plant is scheduled to close. The prohibition would apply to coal-generated electricity from other states, Inslee said. About 13 percent of the electricity used in Washington comes from coal. The governor's office did not project how banning coal would affect electric rates.
Utilities would be required to have carbon-free electricity by 2045. Natural gas currently generates about 10 percent of the state's electricity.
The governor also proposes to require transportation fuel suppliers to reduce the "carbon intensity" of their fuel by using more alternatives to fossil fuels.
More immediately, Inslee proposes spending on a host of programs, including a $1,000 discount to anyone who buys an electric vehicle that costs under $45,000. Other programs would pay for electric-hybrid ferries and electric charging stations. Smaller proposals include $3.25 million for a task force to advance the development of a high-speed rail between Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia. The governor's package includes $1 million to promote the benefits of driving an electric car.
The governor's said the proposals combined would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035. The governor's office did not provide an estimate on how the reduction would affect temperatures.