OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee appointed a new task force to find ways for Washington to reduce carbon emissions as part of an executive order to fight climate change.
At a speech at Shoreline Community College on Tuesday, Inslee outlined goals in an order that calls for less carbon pollution and more clean energy sources, including a reduction in electricity generated by coal-fired power plants and increased use of electric vehicles and mass transit.
The Republican chairman of the Senate Energy Committee accused Inslee of attempting to maneuver around the Legislature to impose a new gasoline tax. Sen. Doug Ericksen, of Ferndale, also questioned Inslee’s commitment to an open discussion of the issues, noting the Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force’s first meeting occurred the day the group was announced, with no advance public notice.
A spokesman for Inslee said Tuesday’s meeting was simply a get-acquainted session, which reporters were allowed to attend even though the task force isn’t covered by the state’s open meetings law. It has no state funding and members serve as volunteers, David Postman said.
Future meetings will be open and have advance public notice, he added.
The 21-member task force will issue recommendations for a “market-based” plan to limit carbon pollution by Nov. 21. Leading the task force are Rod Brown, an attorney for Cascadia Law Group, an environmental legal firm; and Ada Healey, a vice president for Vulcan Inc., a company started by Paul Allen involved in revitalizing Seattle’s South Lake Union area.
State agencies will also study ways to cut gasoline use, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, Inslee said. The Department of Transportation will lead a study of ways to lower emissions through more use of electricity and mass transit. Washington State University and the Department of Commerce will work with others to advance solar power and find ways to use energy more efficiently through smart building programs.
Low-carbon fuel standards could generate some of the biggest objections from Republicans in the Legislature, who demanded last session that Inslee promise there would be no carbon tax on gasoline before they would vote for any increase in the gas tax to help pay for major road and bridge projects. Inslee said he had no plans for such an increase, which he couldn’t do unilaterally, and said Republicans were just using it as an excuse not to vote on a transportation package.
On Tuesday, Ericksen said the executive order was an end-run around the Legislature that “moved closer to imposing massive regulations that will choke job creation and add huge energy costs to the budgets of average families.”
But Inslee said the Office of Financial Management will study whether clean fuel standards are feasible and do a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether they would work in Washington and how they should be implemented. Most proposed changes would require legislative approval or appropriations.
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