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April 29, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Gov. Inslee pushes carbon limit, appoints task force

Calling the reduction of carbon pollution “a moral responsibility,” Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order today to push Washington closer to a limit on carbon emissions.

The governor’s rhetoric was urgent and his goals sweeping, but his executive order called for action to move at a deliberate pace.

Inslee appointed a 21-member task force to help design a “market-based” carbon reduction plan — such as a cap and trade system — that would impose a binding limit on overall carbon emissions while also considering cost impacts on consumers. The group is supposed to come up with recommendations so Inslee can take a proposal to the 2015 Legislature.

Inslee’s executive order also directs state agencies to further support clean-energy technologies such as solar power and work with utilities to eventually eliminate the use of electricity produced by coal-fired power plants.

“This is the right time to act because the facts are clear and they are compelling. Climate change is already upon us because of carbon pollution,” Inslee said during his announcement at Shoreline Community College’s car-repair training center.

His announcement drew quick criticism from a Republican leader.

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who chairs the state Senate committee overseeing energy and environmental issues, said he was irritated that Inslee did not inform him and other GOP lawmakers of his announcement.

Ericksen was skeptical of Inslee’s proposals and said the governor’s drive to halt use of fossil fuels “will drive jobs out” of the state “for no reason.”

Inslee noted the Legislature in 2008 passed a law saying Washington will cut greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. “It is the law of the state of Washington … what we are designing is the tools,” he said.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, praised Inslee’s executive order as “a bold action to advance Washington’s commitment to fighting climate change.”

But Ericksen called Inslee’s talk of carbon pollution “loaded language,” adding that “carbon is a natural process.” Asked whether he believed global climate change described by scientists is real, Ericksen said his own views were “irrelevant.”

Ericksen said the state should pursue clean energy policies but not in a manner that would hurt the economy. He said Washington’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions is too minuscule to make a difference.

Inslee also took a cautious step toward a clean-fuel standard in Washington State, ordering the Office of Financial Management to conduct a feasibility study and a cost-benefit analysis. Such a standard would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, but opponents argue it would raise gas prices.

Republicans in the Legislature have been suspicious that Inslee would abruptly impose a costly low-carbon fuel standard by executive order.

Inslee today said he does have that authority. But he said the state will carefully examine the costs and benefits before moving forward.

Comments | Topics: carbon pollution, Jay Inslee

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