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News / Northwest

Inslee signs order for climate change process

The Columbian
Published: April 28, 2014, 5:00pm

SHORELINE — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed an executive order that directs a task force to recommend a market-based program that would limit the amount of carbon pollution in the state.

The governor, who has made tackling climate change a key issue, also directed state agencies to work with utilities to transition away from coal-powered electricity and consider a plan to require the use of cleaner transportation fuels.

Inslee’s executive action comes months after a bipartisan panel of legislators deadlocked on strategies to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. That panel met over several months, but ultimately split along party lines.

Inslee said his executive order builds on previous studies and work groups, and will be focused on action. “We’ll have an action plan,” he said.

“We’re doing this because the law requires it,” Inslee said, at one point reading from the statute. The law requires Washington to return to 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2020, and for greater reductions beyond that.

Some Republicans have questioned whether those limits are binding and said they should be revised if it doesn’t work for businesses or citizens.

A key part of Inslee’s action plan sets up a carbon emissions reduction task force that began meeting Tuesday, following the news conference at Shoreline Community College.

The group, headed by Rod Brown of the Cascadia Law Group and Ada Healey of Vulcan, is expected to come up with recommendations for a market-based program to limit carbon emissions.

Inslee’s order says the program must set a cap on carbon emissions, and help consumers, workers and businesses transition away from carbon-based fuels. Recommendations are due in November, and would inform legislation Inslee requests in the 2015 legislative session.

Inslee told reporters that any program that caps the amount of carbon pollution businesses and others can emit would require legislative approval, but a low-carbon fuel standard could be done by executive action.

At the end of this process, some proposals would be put in place by him, while others would be presented to the Legislature.

The governor is likely to face a challenge in getting bipartisan support for a market-based program. Former Gov. Chris Gregoire aggressively pushed for and failed to get lawmakers in 2009 to approve a market-based carbon trading system.

Gregoire also signed an executive order in 2009 directing state agencies to take action on climate change. State officials back then also studied whether to implement a clean fuel standard, but it’s unclear what happened with that work.

Republicans earlier this year raised fears that a low-carbon fuel standard, which requires fuel producers to offer a cleaner mix of fuels such as biofuels or natural gas, would raise gasoline prices.