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WA Bill Would Hold Fossil Fuel Industry Accountable for Pollution

Car emissions contribute to bad air days, especially during summer months. (elcovalana/Adobe Stock)
Car emissions contribute to bad air days, especially during summer months. (elcovalana/Adobe Stock)
March 9, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- In the final week of the legislative session, Washington state lawmakers are considering expanding the Clean Air Act to regulate mobile sources of pollution.

The Clean Air Act Authority bill is the result of a state Supreme Court decision in January, which ruled that the state can't regulate indirect sources of greenhouse gas emissions, including sources in the transportation sector such as the fossil fuel industry.

But Rebecca Ponzio, director of the climate and fossil fuel program for the Washington Environmental Council, says the Supreme Court emphasized that climate change is a crisis and that the Legislature could change the Clean Air Act.

"Right now, the state doesn't have the authority to deal with all air pollutants, and this bill would give that authority to the state so that we can all have cleaner air -- no matter what the source is," she states.

The fossil fuel industry argues that the bill will be costly for energy producers and consumers. The 2020 session is scheduled to adjourn on Thursday.

Dr. Chris Covert-Bowlds, a family physician in Seattle, says a lot of the air quality health risks in Washington are due to the transportation sector. He maintains improving air quality would reduce health costs and offset any costs associated with this legislation, noting that pollution also endangers people's lives.

Covert-Bowlds says he sees in his office the risks from poor air quality, especially during the summer when more people are driving.

"Young children coming in wheezing and short of breath," he points out. "It really breaks the heart when I see little kids suffering due to bad air quality, and I've seen that a number of times."

Covert-Bowlds says the bill also provides an increase in carbon-sequestration opportunities, which could add forestry jobs to rural areas of the state. He notes that rural communities often cluster around one main street, which can expose residents to a lot of transportation pollution and hurt air quality.

Disclosure: Kaiser Health Plan of Washington Project and Washington Environmental Council contribute to our fund for reporting on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA