Wash. climate bills

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks May 7 at a Seattle park before signing five climate-change bills, including one requiring all electricity sold in Washington to be carbon neutral by 2030. 

Five climate-change bills signed Tuesday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will mandate renewable power, subsidize electric vehicles, require buildings to be remodeled and dictate how energy air compressors, generators and other appliances use.

Inslee, a Democratic candidate for president who has made global warming the focus of his campaign, signed the bills at a park in Seattle. The package will put Washington at the forefront of defeating climate change, he said.

"Let the word go forth, from this time and place, that from today forward, Washington state is leading in the effort to defeat climate change," Inslee said.

The bill signings capped a 2019 legislative session that saw the Democratic-controlled House and Senate pass legislation to cut greenhouse gases. The bills received little support from Republicans, who warned that the package will intrude on individuals and do nothing to influence the climate.

Democrats introduced legislation in step with the aspirations of the Green New Deal, which Inslee has endorsed. Several major proposals that would have advanced the goal of eliminating fossil fuels from the economy failed.

A cap-and-trade bill that would have forced food processors, fertilizer makers and other manufacturers to reduce emissions or bid for allowances didn't progress past a hearing.

A bill to mandate more alternative fuels in on-road gasoline and diesel passed the House, but not the Senate.

Legislators also did not impose a carbon tax, a policy twice rejected by voters in initiatives.

The Washington Farm Bureau warned that all three measures would harm producers by raising the cost of growing and transporting farm products.

Here are summaries of the the climate-change bills signed by Inslee:

• By Jan. 1, 2045, all electricity sold in Washington must come from hydroelectricity, wind, solar, geothermal, renewable natural gas, renewable hydrogen, tides and waves, biomass or biodiesel, according to Senate Bill 5116.

Electric utilities unable to meet the standard by Jan. 1, 2030, will have to invest in projects to reduce carbon emissions elsewhere, including on farms.

The bill prohibits building or expanding hydropower projects to meet the standard. 

Democrats hail the bill as a historic achievement and a spur to innovation. Republicans warn the law will increase energy costs and make the supply of electricity less reliable. "Unfortunately, as we move to cleaner energy, we do it with policy that stinks," Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, said in a floor speech before the House passed the legislation.

• Agriculture structures will be exempt from new energy efficient standards for commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet.

House Bill 1275 defines agriculture structures as buildings that house farm implements, hay, grain, poultry, livestock or other horticultural products.

The exemption does not apply to farm housing or where farm products are processed, treated or packaged.

The Washington Department of Commerce will write the standard to limit how much energy can be used per square foot.

The standard will be phased in between 2020 and 2028. Building owners who don't meet the standard will face fines.

The bill also requires new buildings with on-site parking to set aside at least 10% of the spaces for electric vehicle charging stations.

• The commerce department will set energy efficient standards for a wide range of appliances, including air compressors, generators and computers.

New appliances that don't meet the standards can't be sold, leased or installed in Washington.

• Electric vehicles that cost up to $45,000 can be bought tax free under House Bill 2042. To make up for not paying gas taxes, drivers of electric vehicles, hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles will pay a $75 fee.

The bill provides other incentives to drive electric vehicles. The commerce department will study how to make loans available to low-income drivers to buy electric vehicles.

• House Bill 1112 will phase in restrictions on hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas. Hydrofluorocarbons are primarily used as refrigerants in commercial and industrial applications.

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