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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Inslee wants state to trade pollution credits with Canada, buy more electic cars

Washington businesses could purchase carbon pollution “credits” from Canadian provinces and other states under proposals being discussed in Paris, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

The state will also try to reduce its carbon footprint by purchasing more electric vehicles for its agency fleets, so that one car out of five bought in 2017 is electric, Inslee said. Increased purchases by government and private fleets will help drive down the cost of electric vehicles, he said.

Attending the United Nation’s Climate Action conference in Paris, Inslee said he has met with other governors, provincial premiers and mayors involved in subnational group meetings and many are committed to reducing carbon. Those political entities can “move even faster than nations” on plans to cut pollution, he said.

He has signed memoranda of understanding with France and Chile to share research into carbon reduction, talked with an electric car-sharing service about expanding in Washington and discussed the possibility of state businesses purchasing pollution credits from counterparts in Quebec and Ontario if the state enacts a carbon reduction rule. Under such a system, a company in one of those Canadian provinces that reduces its carbon pollution could sell a Washington company some or all of the value of the amount of pollution previously produced. The Washington company could use that to offset its emissions as the state orders major sources of pollution to cut back.

“The California system is integrated with Ontario, and I see no reason why we could not, as well,” he said in telephone press conference.

Asked how that would help improve pollution in Washington, Inslee replied: “Our air becomes cleaner any time we reduce carbon pollution anywhere in the world.”

Inslee has met with opposition for his carbon reduction proposals from most legislative Republicans, and apathy from many Democrats. The latest transportation expansion plan that raised the state gasoline taxes calls for reductions to public transit projects if he institutes any new taxes or fees. Inslee has ordered the state Department of Ecology to draft new rules to reduce carbon pollution that fall within existing laws, and a preliminary rule is expected to be released for public comment late this month.

Details of the electric vehicle initiative were sketchy Tuesday morning. Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said the total number of cars and the additional purchase costs weren’t immediately available, but added those vehicles have the same or lower “life cycle” costs as standard cars for the time they spend in the fleet. Not all agencies would be buying electric vehicles for 20 percent of their new cars. For example, the Washington State Patrol is not expected to replace its cruisers with electric vehicles.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, chairman of the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, said Inslee has no authority to make promises of carbon reduction in Paris. In an interview with The Seattle Times, the Ferndale Republican suggested the governor could have reduced his carbon footprint by “Skyping it in” to the conference.

Inslee called Ericksen’s comments “just a silly thing,” and the reaction of Washington Republicans to his climate proposals part of the problem. “It’s regrettable we’ve such reactions from Teddy Roosevelt’s old party,” he said.

Taxpayers are not footing the bill for his trip to Paris, Inslee said in response to a reporter’s question. He was invited by Georgetown University, which is covering the cost.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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