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Cap-and-Trade Won't Cut It for WA Communities, Critics Say

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Front-line communities say cap-and-trade programs don't adequately address the sources of pollution in their neighborhoods. (elizabeth lara-EyeEm/Adobe Stock)
Front-line communities say cap-and-trade programs don't adequately address the sources of pollution in their neighborhoods. (elizabeth lara-EyeEm/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA - Producer, Contact
February 24, 2021

SEATTLE - Programs that cap companies' pollution emissions and allow them to trade emissions credits have been touted as a way to reduce greenhouse gases. But groups representing front-line communities in Washington state say they don't protect the folks who are most affected by the pollution.

In the Washington Legislature, Senate Bill 5126 would create a cap-and-trade crediting program. Susan Balbas, executive director of the Na'ah Illahee Fund, which works with tribal communities in the Northwest, said a cap-and-trade program allows companies to continue polluting.

"And they pollute in areas where communities are already suffering very high rates of asthma, cancers - all sorts of ill effects from toxic chemicals being released into the environment," she said.

Front and Centered, the largest coalition of community-of-color-led groups in the Northwest, also is voicing opposition to cap-and-trade. SB 5126 has a hearing in the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy and Technology on Thursday.

Yolanda Matthews, climate-justice organizer for Puget Sound Sage, an environmental justice and policy organization, said her group doesn't want to negotiate on cap-and-trade policy.

"Our communities are suffering," she said. "We work with communities that are on the front line of harm, and so we're done with trying to compromise on things and trying to 'reform' this and that. It's really desperate times right now."

Balbas said she wants to see Washington state decrease emissions rather than maintain its current levels. She would prefer to see a policy that taxes emissions to bring them down quickly and uses those funds for a just transition that involves front-line communities.

"We want our communities to have a say in these projects," she said.

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