Posted by: Dr Churchill | February 2, 2015

Polluter Responsibility and Accountability Bill in Washington State has a good chance of Fair Passage

The Governor and Washington state lawmakers introduced a Climate Responsibility Bill at the beginning of this year, to make Carbon polluters accountable for the CO2 pollution released willy-nilly into the atmosphere and the air we all breath, from their giant smoke stacks.

They will face an uphill effort in order to pass the proposed “cap-and-trade” program within 2015, as pushed by Governor Jay Inslee, as the first order of Business of the new Legislature convening in Washington State this year.

To understand what an uphill battle this effort already is — you must experience the hearings of this past week in Olympia — Washington’s capital — where so many people signed up to testify on Governor Jay Inslee’s sweeping proposed bill, to control global warming causing CO2 gases, that this week’s public hearing on the bill was continued to next week.

Dozens of people from across the state testified before the House Environment Committee on a bill to cap the overall amount of carbon emissions in the state and require major polluters to pay for each metric ton of carbon released.

The Environment Committee hearing room quickly filled up, and many who couldn’t get a seat had to follow the proceedings on TV monitors in several overflow areas.

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Democrat from Burien Washington, who chairs the committee, said the impacts of climate change are real and the state can’t afford to wait any longer to address it. He’s the prime sponsor of House Bill 1314, which has three dozen Democratic Representatives as co-sponsors.

The governor-backed bill, which must be approved by the Legislature, faces resistance from some businesses and Republicans, who control the Senate.

Q: Why is the governor proposing it?

A: Governor Jay Inslee says polluters should pay for the emissions they release into the atmosphere and his plan will raise $1 billion in its first year for transportation, education and other needs. The governor says the state has an obligation to take action on climate change and his plan will help the state meet a mandate to reduce greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Q: Who supports it and why?

A: Environmental Parliament, Climate Change groups, labour unions, groups advocating for low-income and minority communities, and public health advocates — all testified in favour of the bill. An Environmental Parliament inspired coalition called Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is also pushing the plan.

Supporters say the plan will cut CO2 pollution and improve public health and the environment. Renee Klein, CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific, was among those who said the state is already facing the consequences of climate change in increased health costs and other problems, severely affecting the most innocent and least responsible for the pollution, members of the community — the children.
Supporters of the bill were the predominant majority of witnesses testifying, and all said that “Major Polluters” should be held accountable, and that the program will ultimately encourage more energy efficiencies and clean-energy innovations.

Mr Quinn DeSean, a Tukwila City Council member, told lawmakers it’s also an issue of social justice and equity, because He, and many Doctors, as well as epidemiologists, and civilian public health advocates, used statistic that showed that minority and low-income communities have much higher rates of asthma and other health issues related to pollution, than other segments of the Washington State population. In fact most all children of these communities have an inhaler when they go to school and are bedevilled by all types of disabling major allergies, and pollution induced illnesses.

Q: Who opposes it and why?

A: The Western States Petroleum Association, the Association of Washington Business, and other polluters, formed a new group, called misleadingly, “the Washington Climate Collaborative” to lobby the legislature against the Governor’s bill and to spread skepticism, and doubt by discrediting that Climate Change even exists. Republican lawmakers say the state is already a low-carbon-producing state and they support private market innovations to fix the problems if one exists.

Christine Brewer with Spokane-based fossil fuel energy producer Avista Corp., which will be required to account for it’s emissions under the WA Governor’s plan, said the costs will fall to ratepayers. Matthew Lyons with Nucor Steel in Seattle said that as the state’s only steel mill, it must compete with others out of state that won’t have to pay those charges, and He estimated that the company would have to pay more than $3 million in the first year of operations under the new Bill.

Other polluting business owners said they were concerned that the so-called large polluters would simply pass along the charges onto them in “a trickle-down effect.”

Q: How does cap and trade work?

A: The program sets an overall state limit on carbon dioxide and other emissions and requires major polluters to buy allowances, or permits, for each metric ton released. The cap would ratchet down over time, so fewer allowances are issued and the price for pollution rises. Companies can decide to pay for their pollution or find that there’s more financial incentive for them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by becoming more energy efficient or finding newer technologies to reduce pollution.

Q: Who would have to pay and how much?

A: The program would apply to energy and power generating Utilities, as well as major industrial facilities that release more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon a year, such as power plants, oil refineries and food processors. Examples of those likely affected include the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, Ash Grove Cement plant in Seattle, Boeing Co.’s commercial airplanes factory in Everett, ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston in Pasco and Richland, and the River Road power plant in Vancouver.

Biomass plants, waste facilities, landfills, and federal and tribal entities are exempt.

Q: How much would polluters have to pay?

A: The actual price would be set at auction, with a minimum of about $12 a metric ton and no lid on how high prices could go. At $12 a ton, for example, facilities that release 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year would have to pay about $1.2 million.

Q: Who else has a cap-and-trade program?

A: California rolled out a program nearly three years ago. A coalition of Northeast states has a program that applies to power plants. Europe launched a program in 2005.


It is important to know that the proposed bill will generate through the auction of the carbon pollution permits somewhere around one Billion US dollars per year, that will be used for improving the children’s education as required and guided by the McCleary decision of the state’s Supreme court.

It is also important to know that the total amount of CO2 pollution Washington State can produce has been limited by earlier legislation and in order to meet this mandate — this Pollution Accountability bill is a necessary requirement.

This Washington state Bill 1314, is an enlightened piece of legislation because it represents a behavioural economics approach to the problem of CO2 pollution since it will inevitably cause the polluters to change their methods and ways of doing business so they do not pollute, and thus they will not have to pay for the pollution responsibility permits. In this way the state as a whole meets it’s goals and society benefits from the change in economic behaviour.

Nudging people, businesses, and whole populations to change their ways has always been the goal of the Environmental Parliament that is the generator of these global and yet very local Bipartisan Climate Change Policy proposals, as was the first version of this bill that was originally presented to Washington State lawmakers in 2009 under then Governor Christine Gregoire…

Simply put: The Proposed Washington State Cap-And-Trade Plan Would Make Polluters Pay for Their Garbage That Until Now They Have Been Throwing Up In Our Air For Free.

Don’t You Pay for Your Garbage?

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