WA Legislature passes climate change blueprint
Associated Press Writer
Washington state will come up with a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and build a "green collar" work force under a measure passed by the Legislature on Wednesday.
The measure cleared the Senate 29-19 on a mostly party-line vote after more than 90 minutes of debate. Only two Democrats voted against it _ Sens. Jim Kastama of Puyallup and Tim Sheldon of Potlatch.
"No one likes change," said Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma. "Change is going to take place and we need to prepare for it."
The bill now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who requested it and will sign it within the next week.
"Global climate change is the greatest challenge our generation and future generations face, we must take bold steps to address it now," Gregoire said in a statement. "This bill will help guide Washington state in working toward a cleaner environmental future and sustainable economic development by laying the groundwork for creating green collar jobs."
The measure builds on a law that passed last year. That underlying measure set targets to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020; to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035; and to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 _ or 70 percent below what is currently predicted for 2050.
The bill that passed Wednesday makes those goals firm requirements.
"It's a very significant step forward, absolutely fundamental to doing what we need to do in this state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a way that doesn't damage the economy," said Jay Manning, director of the state Department of Ecology. "This bill is a great combination of doing the right thing by the environment and doing the right thing by the economy."
It has five major points, led by orders for the state Ecology Department to make dramatic cuts in Washington's greenhouse gas emissions. The agency's eventual blueprint must find a way to curb emissions by 70 percent of expected levels in 2050.
Ecology regulators also would set up an emissions reporting system, for industries that annually produce 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases and vehicle fleets that emit at least 2,500 metric tons per year. The first reports would be due in 2010, with deferrals possible for interstate transport businesses.
At the same time, the state Transportation Department would set up recommendations for cutting in half the annual per capita vehicle miles traveled by 2050.
Opponents argued that the bill would lead to an unfair mandate on how people live and commute to work.
"They're gonna tell you what size car you're gonna drive, when you're gonna drive it, what size house you'll live in, how big that house is gonna be, and how much electricity you're going to use," said Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland.
Lawmakers rejected more than a dozen proposed amendments, including one that would recognize nuclear power as a renewable source of energy.
The measure also directs the state to add 25,000 "green collar" jobs by 2020. The green jobs initiative would set up a special state account that gives grants for training and other programs to encourage clean-energy businesses.
"The green economy will be the new economy," Franklin said. "If we do not prepare for it, we will be left behind."
Washington officials are also authorized to work with the Western Climate Initiative, a partnership of six states and two Canadian provinces, in developing a regional cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the West.
The bill's definition of greenhouse gases includes carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Such gases essentially trap energy from the sun, which warms the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere. Many scientists believe human activity that increases those gases is contributing to global warming.
But some question the measures the state is taking.
"There is sort of a chicken little aspect to this bill that seems to imply the sky is going to fall in large chunks," said Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood. "It is not."
The climate change bill is House Bill 2815.
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