Inslee vows to stay the course on climate change

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he'll continue to push climate change programs even without the backing of the new administration in Washington, D.C.

OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on says his administration will soldier on with its climate change agenda, even if the Trump administration retreats on federal carbon-cutting rules.

“We have to understand that we can be and must be masters of our own destiny when it comes to fighting the ravages of carbon pollution in the state of Washington,” he said at a press conference.

Inslee was asked whether he was concerned about shifting positions at the Environmental Protection Agency and whether he retained any hope that the state Legislature will adopt a carbon tax.

“We will not be slowed one iota by the foolishness we’re now hearing coming out of the White House when it comes to this existential threat to our state,” he said Thursday. “Our state is not going to be slowed down with what we do. We are not going to be stopped by people who believe this is a hoax.”

Inslee, who has made climate change his signature issue, said the state will continue to implement a carbon cap.

The state Department of Ecology has ordered dozens of manufacturers, power plants, oil refineries and natural gas distributors to gradually reduce carbon emissions or invest in renewable energy projects.

Inslee imposed the cap by executive order, citing his administration’s authority under the state Clean Air Act.

The Washington Farm Bureau, Northwest Food Processors Association and other business and trade groups are suing to overturn the cap. They claim the governor overstepped his authority. Plus, they argue that manufacturers will move to states and countries that burn more coal, actually increasing global carbon emissions.

Neither the Democratic-controlled House nor the Republican-led Senate has acted on Inslee’s carbon tax proposal in prior sessions. Voters defeated a carbon tax initiative in November. Many environmental groups opposed the measure because it was accompanied by tax cuts and was not intended to increase overall government revenue.

Inslee restated Thursday that his offer to use a portion of carbon tax revenue for irrigation and flood control should be attractive to Republicans.

“There are legitimate needs in the state of Washington to build water projects and that’s on both sides. There’s not enough water in Eastern Washington, there’s too much water on occasion in Western Washington,” he said.

Inslee proposes to spend most revenue from a carbon tax on K-12 education. He has proposed spending 15 percent, an estimated $250 million the first year, on water projects. Carbon taxes also would fund “clean energy and clean transportation improvements” and assist low-income residents who saw their living costs rise because of the new tax.

Republicans have shown little interest in using a carbon tax to motivate businesses to cut greenhouse gases.

Meanwhile, some House Democrats want the state to set more ambitious carbon-reduction goals.

House Bill 1144 calls for reducing the state’s carbon emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. House Bill 1371 calls for a 91 percent reduction. The Legislature in 2008 set a 50 percent reduction goal.

No bill to revise the target has been introduced in the Senate.

1990 serves as an international baseline for cutting carbon emissions.

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