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Gov. Gregoire does her own thing on climate change after Legislature fails to pass bill. Can she do that?

Post by News Tribune Staff on May 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm with No Comments »
May 24, 2009 12:25 pm

Gov. Chris Gregoire wasn’t too happy with her Democratic colleagues at the end of the session in April when they failed to pass the climate change bill, Senate Bill 5735. So she issued an executive order last week.

This memo from a House Democratic staffer to House members and staff explains what the governor is doing. Not sure how the governor can rewrite a legislative budget without using her veto. She’s “reprioritizing” what spending is there, or so she says.

Also, the business about TransAlta agreeing with the state Department of Ecology to burn less coal and more biomass might be wishful thinking.

From: Fleckenstein, Mary

Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 1:02 PM

To: @HDC Members

Cc: @HDC Caucus Staff; @HDC LA’s

Subject: Climate change executive order

Yesterday the Governor signed an executive order (E. O) relating to climate change. The EO is attached. It addresses many of the provisions in the proposed final striking amendment to SB 5735 and goes a bit further. As you may recall, SB 5735 was not adopted by the legislature. The E.O. does not specifically call out legislative participation, but the Governor has said she welcomes legislative involvement.

The provisions not addressed in SB 5735, but which are in the EO, include those related to

* Developing emission benchmarks by industry sector

* A low-carbon fuel standard

* Working with cities and counties on adapting to sea-level rise resulting from climate change

* Working with public agencies on changes in water resources likely to result from climate change

* Working with public and private entities on potential changes to the vehicle-miles-travelled benchmarks

Implementation of the E.O is expected to cost up to $800,000, and the Governor said that would come from reprioritizing some of Ecology’s air quality program, as well as funding provided to WSDOT in the budget, and by reprioritizing within existing appropriations.

Highlights of the E.O:

* Ecology will participate in the regional greenhouse gas reduction program (Western Climate Initiative) and work with the federal government to develop a program that reflects Washington State’s priorities.

* Ecology will work with the state’s largest emitters to estimate their emissions, and their share of the reduction needed to achieve the statutory reduction level in 2020. This work is to be completed by Dec. 1, 2009. By October, 2010, Ecology will develop reduction strategies and actions to achieve the 2020 targets.

* Ecology will work with business and stakeholders to develop emission benchmarks by industry sector for those facilities likely to be covered by a federal or regional cap and trade program. The E.O. directs Ecology to support the use of these benchmarks to distribute allowances in a regional or federal cap and trade program, and to recognize early actions to reduce emissions.

* The E.O envisions the benchmarks as complementing the federal program, or to be used in the absence of a federal program. So this could be the first step toward a state regulatory approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

* Ecology is directed to establish an agreed order with TransAlta to achieve the state’s emissions performance standard by 2025. This would require TransAlta to cut their emissions in half. This could be accomplished by sequestering emissions, switching fuel source from coal to biomass or natural gas or another lower-emitting fuel source, by shutting down for periods of time, or even installing technologies which may or may not be available on the market today.

* There is some question as to what authority Ecology would use to establish an agreed order. Ecology has said they will use the state’s Clean Air Act, but it’s not clear whether that is sufficient authority.

* Ecology will work with DNR and stakeholders on recommendations for forestry offsets and financial incentives.

* Ecology will work with the Departments of Commerce and Transportation on a low-carbon fuel standard, and recommend by July, 2010 which standards or requirements should be adopted, and whether by rule or legislation.

* WSDOT will work with public and private sector entities on potential changes to the vehicle-miles-travelled benchmarks in statues, including addressing low-emission vehicles, and other strategies to reduce transportation emissions.

* WSDOT will work with the regional transportation planning agencies representing the 7 largest counties to adopt regional transportation plans that provide transportation alternatives, reduce greenhouse gases, and achieve the statutory benchmarks to reduce vehicle miles travelled.

* The Governor’s office will lead the effort to develop a project to electrify I-5, in collaboration with Oregon and California, and seek federal funds to purchase electric vehicles and finance infrastructure.

* Ecology will work with cities and counties to address the impacts of sea-level-rise on shorelines.

* Ecology and the Health Department will work with other public agencies on how to address changes in water resources expected due to climate change impacts.

Please let me know if you have questions or concerns.

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