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WA Climate Advocates Call for Ambitious 2020 Session

Climate advocates want Washington state lawmakers to focus on a cleaner transportation sector during the 2020 session. (toa555/Adobe Stock)
Climate advocates want Washington state lawmakers to focus on a cleaner transportation sector during the 2020 session. (toa555/Adobe Stock)
December 12, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. – As the effects of climate change become more dire, advocates want Washington state lawmakers to take bold action in the 2020 session.

Climate groups commend the state's commitment this year to 100% clean electricity by 2045, but they say more needs to be done.

One key is trying again to pass a clean fuels standard, which was shot down by lawmakers this year.

Kelly Hall, state policy manager for the group Climate Solutions, says British Columbia, Oregon and California have standards.

"It has been one of the most effective policies at cutting emissions in our transportation sector, and Washington is really missing out on the benefits of having this policy that the entire West Coast has," she states.

The petroleum industry predicts it would lead to higher fuel costs.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is considering a clean fuels standard for its region.

Transportation accounts for about half of the state's greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Leah Missik, Washington state transportation policy manager with Climate Solutions, says the state also needs to tackle funding for a cleaner transportation sector.

Any changes could be hampered by the recently passed Initiative 976, which will limit tax revenue for local transportation projects.

A carbon pricing bill is one avenue for funding, although several versions of this measure have failed in recent years.

Missik says one creative solution is an air quality surcharge for new or retitled vehicles.

"This charge would account for a vehicle's estimated greenhouse gas emissions over its life,” she explains. “So more efficient vehicles would pay less. Electric vehicles would pay far less given their extremely low to no greenhouse gas emission."

Mo McBroom, government relations director for The Nature Conservancy in Washington, says one of the top priorities is governor-requested legislation to update the state's climate emission limits.

She says current goals were set 11 years ago and, since then, clearer science on climate change has emerged, but the state has failed to make progress.

She adds that new benchmarks would create a better framework for climate decisions.

"So it allows activists, advocates, legislators, the business community to think about any given policy choice in the context of what do we need to get done, how far do we need to go and how far does this policy take us in that direction," she explains.

The legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 13.

Disclosure: The Nature Conservancy of Washington contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA