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How Clean and Green Can WA Afford to Be?

January 30, 2009

Olympia, WA - There won't be as much hot air escaping from the State Capitol building if new proposals for energy efficiency are passed by the Washington Legislature. Gov. Gregoire has announced she'll support a wide-ranging package of legislation to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, with $455 million to be spent on saving energy.

Most of the money is for transportation projects, but $10 million would be used to make public buildings, including public housing, more energy-efficient. The governor also is asking that state building codes be updated.

Next week, House and Senate committees will look at the idea of giving buildings efficiency ratings, much like mileage ratings for cars, and requiring building owners to disclose those ratings when they sell or lease. It's part of another package, called "Efficiency First" (HB 1747), which also includes ways for owners to finance the costs of making their buildings more efficient.

Carrie Dolwick, policy associate for the Northwest Energy Coalition, says the package would do more than reduce pollution.

"We see this as an economic recovery package - and this is a good time for upgrading our energy codes, providing information for building owners and operators, and to help with some of those up-front financing aspects of energy efficiency."

According to Dolwick, inefficient buildings create 30 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution in Washington.

"Energy efficiency is the cheapest, quickest and cleanest way to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals. It also creates a large potential for job creation, and for meeting our rising energy needs."

Gregoire estimates the new policies would create 2,900 new jobs, although critics question that figure, and say the budget-strapped state should curtail new expenses for now.

The "Efficiency First" hearings are scheduled for Monday, February 2, at 1:30 p.m. in the House Technology, Energy & Communications Committee; and Wednesday, February 4, at 3:30 pm. in the Senate Environment, Water & Energy Committee.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA