Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal to cap state carbon emissions and impose $1 billion a year in new charges on oil refineries, aluminum smelters and other top polluters passed its first legislative hurdle Tuesday, clearing the state House Environment Committee on a party-line vote.
Much of the debate centered on GOP amendments that sought to soften the costs on industries of the cap-and-trade proposal, which would move more aggressively than a similar plan in place in California. The amendments were mostly voted down by majority Democrats, though Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, who chairs the panel, said he remains open to changes as the measure advances.
But as the bill headed for a final committee vote, the ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, raised a line of argument that GOP leaders have largely shied away from this year. Shea, one of the legislature’s most conservative members, disputed the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is occurring, likely due to human activity.
“I believe that we all agree we need to be good stewards of our environment,” Shea said. But he said the state should do it in “the most effective way that doesn’t impact our working families,” noting the cap-and-trade plan would boost gasoline and other energy costs.
Shea said Washington state already has been a leader in clean energy “despite the fact that there is some pretty significant scientific evidence out there that there has not been warming.”
He was referring to the contention, frequently repeated by climate-change skeptics, that the planet has stopped warming over the last couple decades. It’s an argument that repeatedly has been debunked. While it’s true that there have been pauses or variations in warming, the overall trend has not changed, according to scientists.
The cap-and-trade proposal now moves to a House fiscal committee. Although one of Inslee’s major priorities, the plan’s fate is uncertain, even in the Democratic-majority state House, much less the GOP-controlled Senate. You can watch Shea’s comments, and a brief response by Fitzgibbon, here.