UPDATE 2: The House Environment Committee approved HB 1915 on a vote of 7-to-3 Wednesday, moving it to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. The bill is scheduled to be heard during its 8 a.m. meeting on Monday.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee testified again in the Legislature today [Tuesday] on his climate change proposal, once again urging quick action to set up a legislative study group and authorize an independent review of Washington’s options for reducing carbon pollution in a way that makes sense for the Evergreen State. In comments that emphasized the emergency the Democratic governor thinks the world is facing on climate change, he said: “We’re sitting here with this big avalanche coming down on us. We need to move.’’
Inslee also testified last month in the Senate on a similar proposal to invite the Legislature’s four caucuses to join him in a working group that can hire a consultant and review what might be the state’s best, cost effective option for reducing carbon pollution.
But Republicans controlling the Senate as part of a coalition with two defector Democrats have stripped out language that declares that Washington has a problem urgently needing attention, and Inslee’s legislative team is working to see if that language can be put back in.
In today’s testimony, given this time on House Bill 1915 in the House Environment Committee, Inslee again framed Washington as a state with the right mix of entrepreneurship, technological know-how and innovative talent to emerge as the global leader in the clean energy field.
But this time the skepticism of some Republican members of the committee came through more clearly about the validity of the scientific consensus that humans are contributing to a warming planet.
The discussion again was polite, but there were some pointed questions – such as when Rep. Shelly Short, ranking Republican on the Environment Committee who represents a sparsely populated part of Eastern Washington, asked Inslee about a long-term concern of skeptics, which is China’s heavy use of coal that arguably cancels out U.S. efforts to reduce emissions.
“What if all the great work we do in Washington is overshadowed by a country that emits eight times the CO2 that we do,’’ Short asked without mentioning China by name.
The governor replied that just as a person would not toss litter out a car window knowing that others will litter, Washington’s response is based in personal responsibility – a theme that on other topics has resonance for the GOP.
“We are all going to embrace some personal responsibility on this or our responsibility to our children and grand children is going to be severely compromised,’’ Inslee said.
In an interview after the hearing, Short said she has an amendment ready that would copy the changes that Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, already made to Inslee’s proposal, Senate Bill 5802, in the other chamber. In a nutshell, Ericksen removed language explaining the environmental threat to Washington posed by climate change and the related phenomenon of ocean acidification, which is interfering with the ability of oyster larvae to form shells.
“A work group is never a bad thing – to look at what’s out there and to assess what other entities are doing,” Short said, adding that she does not agree with Inslee that the science is settled on human-aided climate change.
“I wouldn’t agree that the science is in. But here’s the deal though: There is impact as a result of ocean acidification. There is impact on our water supplies. I think what we need to do is spend time thinking about how we help our state adapt to that versus who is at fault,” Short said. “The thing I thought was most interesting in what he had to say is admitting that we are a very small emitter of CO2 (in Washington) and that it’s really about getting a clean energy … economic sector in our state that can help other states and maybe even other nations.”
Short added: “I’m not against a clean energy economy. I just want to make sure we are not replacing what we have now with that. I want to add that on top of what we have now.’’
The TVW tape of the hearing starts addressing the bill at around 10 minutes in, and Inslee shows up around 18:00 minutes in:
Inslee said later he thought the hearing produced “a great dialogue. I really enjoyed the exchange and openness. People showed some of their thinking. Hopefully everybody is going to get together and pass this bill so we can work on this together.’’
Environment Committee chair Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, said he may move the bill out of committee as soon as Wednesday or Thursday if House leaders authorize an extra meeting date. But he said it can as easily wait until next week – and that the bill is being treated as a budget bill that can be exempted from the March 13 cutoff or deadline for moving House bills off the chamber’s floor.
“I know at some point in the process we’ll reach a bipartisan agreement on it – whether it’s a partisan vote in committee and work out the details later,’’ Upthegrove said after the hearing.
UPDATE: A special noon meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday in the House Environment panel for the purpose of voting on HB 1915.
Meanwhile, SB 5802 was still in Rules today but Ericksen said he expects it could get a vote of the full Senate within a few days. He said Monday he needed to remove the intent language because he did not want scientific “absolutes” in the bill.
Inslee’s bill would cost the state about $535,000 with the biggest share of that to hire the independent consulting firm. The consultant would evaluate the efforts of other states and regions – including British Columbia’s carbon tax, California’s cap and trade proposal and also proposals for reducing transportation-related pollution, which causes most of the carbon emissions in Washington.