2017 Climate Legislation

2017 Climate Legislation

350 SEATTLE’S POSITION ON CLIMATE RELATED LEGISLATION IN THE WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE, 2017

In Part A we discuss specific carbon reduction legislation in the state legislature, and in Part B, we briefly list other climate related legislation that we support.

There were three bills in the Washington State legislature this year that would have updates Washington’s goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

In addition there are two carbon tax bills in the legislature.

Below we address all five of these bills.

Summary: 350 Seattle fully supported HB 1372 (greenhouse gas emission reductions), and partially supports HB 1646 (Senate Bill 5509) (carbon tax legislation). However, 350 Seattle does not support HB 1144. Our position on all of the bills is based on the compelling work of climate scientists, who urge that greenhouse gas emission reductions must be stringent enough to return us to 350 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere by the end of the century. It is our job to convince legislators of both the urgent implications of this science, as well as the feasibility of the more stringent cuts. While some legislators who are generally supportive of climate action believe that only the weaker greenhouse gas emission targets are politically feasible, experts such as Mark Jacobson, Ph.D. of Stanford, assert that we can actually eliminate the use of fossil fuels in Washington by 2050.[1] In fact, since the passage of the Energy Independence Act, Initiative Measure No. 937 in 2006, the seventeen electric utilities that must comply with the act have exceeded targets for cost-effective energy efficiency reductions in every two-year reporting period.  They are also on track to meet the renewable energy acquisition targets for 2012, 2016 and 2020. Clearly, the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals we are seeking are realistic. Thus, to ignore this critical science in favor of weaker emission targets is to turn a blind eye to science in favor of political convenience.

A. GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION REDUCTIONS BILLS

HB 1372 and HB 1144 and SB 5421

HB 1372 which was introduced by Representative Farrell, has now died in committee. It would have updated current law with regard to greenhouse gas reduction targets. Because the current targets are outdated, not consistent with current science, and allow dangerous levels of carbon dioxide emissions, HB 1372 contained greenhouse gas reductions that were targeted to achieve 350 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the end of the century.

HB 1144 (introduced by Representative Fitzgibbon) is still in committee. It also updates current law with regard to greenhouse gas reduction targets, but is weaker than HB 1372 because the reductions are targeted to achieving 450 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[2] In addition, HB 1144 includes language that would “encourage proactive forest management, including, but not limited to, prescribed burning and mechanized thinning, as a means of achieving  the state’s  greenhouse  gas emissions reduction goals.” This is the timber industry’s cynical tactic of promoting the cutting of trees as a way of reducing carbon emissions.

Senate Bill 5421 also updates current law with regard to greenhouse gas reduction targets, but is even weaker than HB 1144.

The table below contrasts the differing reduction targets among the three bills.

H.B. 1372 H.B. 1144 S.B. 5421
By 2020 Reduce GHG emissions by at least 10% below 1990 levels Reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels Reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels
By 2035 Reduce GHG emissions by at least 68% below 1990 levels Reduce GHG emissions to 40% below 1990 levels Reduce GHG emissions to 40% below 1990 levels
By 2050 Reduce GHG emissions by at least 91% below 1990 levels Reduce GHG emissions to 80% below 1990 levels Reduce GHG emissions to 50% below 1990 levels


Why This Matters:
The difference between the reduction goals in HB 1372 and HB 1144 is the difference between reaching 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere by the end of the century, vs. reaching 450 ppm of CO2 by the end of the century.[3] According to acclaimed climate scientist, James Hansen, even a 1.5 degree C increase in average global temperatures from pre-industrial levels is unsafe, and to prevent global heating greater than 1 degree C, concentrations of atmospheric CO2 must decline to 350 ppm by the end of the century. Therefore, failure to choose the policies of HB1372 fails to protect our children, grand-children and future generations.[4] [5]

CARBON TAX BILLS

Carbon Tax Legislation found in House Bill 1646 (Senate Bill 5509)

We partially support HB 1646 (and its companion bill, SB 5509). This bill was introduced by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon and is the product of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.

The bill creates a carbon tax that would start at $15 per ton of CO2 and would increase with inflation, but would also increase in accordance with the state’s climate goals for emissions reductions.

The carbon tax revenue would be spent as follows:

  1. As needed, the funds will go to disproportionately impacted communities, workers, and Energy Intensive and Trade Exposed Businesses (EITE). EITE’s are businesses that would likely leave the state or country to avoid the tax, unless some provision were made to mitigate the impact of the tax.
  2. Seventy percent of the available funds will be invested in a Carbon Reduction Investment Fund (CRIF) and a Sustainable Investment Fund (SIF). The CRIF will fund clean energy projects such as solar, wind, low carbon transportation fuels, energy efficiency measures, etc. The SIF will be used to catalyze emissions reduction strategies that achieve necessary but indirect carbon reductions (such as upgrades to our grid infrastructure that reduce the use of fossil fuels.)
  3. Twenty percent of the available funds will be invested in water infrastructure and healthy aquatic ecosystems.
  4. Ten percent of the available funds will promote healthy forests. This is critical because of forests’ ability to absorb carbon emissions.

350 Seattle’s concern: While we support much of the content of this bill, we have one critical concern. Section 301 of the bill indicates that the carbon tax amount will be adjusted based on whether the state is meeting its climate goals; yet the stated goals are those included in HB 1144 (discussed above) — insufficient goals that would lead us to reach the dangerous level of 450 PPM of carbon in the atmosphere by the end of the century.

As discussed above, the difference between the reduction goals in HB 1372 and HB 1646 is the difference between reaching 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere by the end of the century, vs. reaching 450 ppm of CO2 by the end of the century. Therefore, it is essential that HB 1646, the carbon tax bill, be amended to include the stronger emission reduction goals that are included in HB 1372.

Carbon Tax Legislation found in House Bill 1555 (Senate Bill 5127)

We do not support HB1555 (and its companion bill, SB 5127), the other carbon tax bill in the legislature. This bill was introduced by Representatives Lytton and Doglio at the request of the Office of Financial Management. Our opposition to this legislation is based on its limited funding for green energy, its failure to address climate justice, and because of its exemption for the state’s only coal-burning power plant near Centralia.

B. OTHER CLIMATE RELATED LEGISLATION SUPPORTED BY 350 SEATTLE

  1. House Bill 1334 Updating I – 937 renewable energy legislation, extending the requirement that utilities pursue all available conservation, and prohibiting utilities from meeting new energy or capacity needs with fossil fuels. Died in committee.
  2. House Bill 1210Strengthening funding for oil spill programs, updating prevention and response funding, limiting barges and vessels, protecting against refinery transshipment and strengthening pipeline safety.
  3. House Bill 1048 — Promotion of renewable energy through tax incentives.
  4. Senate Bill 5464 — Creating the Washington Investment Trust, essentially a state bank, whose revenues would be used for public purpose such as public infrastructure.

[1] Declaration of Mark Jacobson in support of Western Environmental Law Center and Our Children’s Trust’s Comments on Proposed Clean Air Rule, July 21, 2016. See also his actual study at http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/USStatesWWS.pdf.

[2] See Department of Ecology, State of Washington, Washington Greenhouse Gas Reduction Limits, December 2016, https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/documents/1601010.pdf

[3] See California Air Resources Board, Discussion Draft, 2030 Target Scoping Plan Update, December 2, 2016, p. 7 stating that the goal of reducing GHG emissions to 80% below 1990 levels is consistent with reaching 450 ppm.

[4] Dr. James Hansen has stated that a 2 degree C temperature rise (consistent with CO2 concentrations of 450 ppm) would create “an unacceptably high risk of global catastrophe.” Dec. of Dr. James E. Hansen, Juliana et al, v US et al, (D. Or. Aug. 12, 2015,)

[5] See also Washington State’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, “Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action,” November 2012 stating that at 460 ppm more than half the marine waters in our region will be corrosive to oyster larvae and other calcifying species.