The final hearing held by the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup on Friday exposed sharp divisions over whether the state should take action to reduce greenhouse- gas emissions.
Gov. Jay Inslee, chairman of the panel, led off remarks saying, “the degradation of our beautiful state caused by carbon pollution is both profoundly threatening to the basic environmental systems of our home state and is now causing real-world, real-time damage.”
He called on the Legislature to “rally next year and design a suite of carbon-pollution prevention bills that meet specific needs and circumstances of both of our environment and industries. “
Republicans on the panel questioned the need to move ahead with policies to reduce carbon emissions, and so did business organizations testifying before the panel.
Brandon Houskeeper, government affairs director for the Association of Washington Business, said the state already has a low carbon footprint in part because most of its electricity comes from hydropower.
“Washington does not represent a state spewing emissions from industries,” he said. “In fact it’s the contrary. Washington is already among the lowest emission states.”
Houskeeper said the Legislature needs to understand the costs and impact of reducing emissions before moving forward.
Others urged quick action.
“We have to get to a place where we have a system-wide tax or cap” on carbon pollution said Doug Howell, with the Sierra Club.
Inslee supports a cap on carbon pollution to help reduce emissions. The Legislature in 2008 passed a law calling for the state to reduce total greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035, and to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The climate panel holds its final meeting Wednesday.