A $15 billion transportation bill passed by Washington state’s Republican-controlled Senate last week has dealt a major blow to Governor Jay Inslee’s plan to introduce a low-carbon fuel standard and a carbon market in the north-western state.
Inslee had proposed to pay for the bill, which funds road, transit, rail, bicycle and pedestrian walkway projects in Washington, in part through a cap-and-trade scheme imposed on the state’s largest emitters.
But Senate Republicans instead approved, by a vote of 27-22, an 11.7-cent increase in Washington’s gasoline tax to fund the bill, after the state’s Lieutenant-Governor Brad Owen threw out a rule that required tax increases to have the backing of at least two-thirds of the Senate.
The transportation bill also included a provision intended to keep Inslee from introducing a low-carbon fuel standard.
Last year, after examining options including a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme, Inslee introduced a cap-and-trade proposal as a way of funding transportation, education and assistance for low-income residents and affected industries, as well as cutting the state’s emissions.
But Republicans, who retained control of Washington’s Senate and gained seats in the state’s House of Representatives in last November’s election, were against the plan over fears it was too complicated and would hurt consumers.
According to the Seattle Times, the state’s oil and gas sector also fought the plan through financial contributions to the state’s Republicans.
Although Inslee’s proposal is separate to the transportation bill and still sits before lawmakers, experts said the transportation bill’s passage dims its prospects as well as any hopes for the creation of a carbon market in Washington in the near future.
That said, under the EPA’s proposed emissions rules the state will still have to come up with a way of cutting its emissions from new and existing power plants.
Despite having amongst the lowest levels of carbon intensity in its power generation in the US, Washington must cut its emissions by almost 70 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 – more than any other state.
This is in part due to an existing plan to phase out by 2025 Washington’s only remaining coal-fired power plant, which provides around 70 percent of the state’s electricity needs.
Under the EPA’s proposed rules, which Republicans and many companies are vehemently fighting, power plants across the nation are required to cut their emissions by an average of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org