Washington governor plans major climate initiatives

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Monday laid out an aggressive set of legislation aimed at dramatically reducing the state’s carbon emissions over the next decade and a half.
 
Inslee’s plan would make Washington one of the first states in the country to eliminate its reliance on coal to power its electric grid. The bill he plans to support this year would require state utilities to end the use of fossil fuels by 2045.
 
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Washington would also adopt a clean fuel standard, similar to one used by Oregon, California and British Columbia. Another piece of legislation would promote electric and low-emission vehicles, and another would provide incentives to renovate existing buildings to reduce their emissions.
 
If the measures pass, Inslee’s office said Washington would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035.
 
Inslee has long made combating climate change a cornerstone of his political agenda. While in Congress, he authored a book about the renewable energy economy, and he has hinted that climate change would be his main focus if he decides to run for president in 2020.
 
“I believe that climate change ought to be at the forefront of our national vision and agenda for economic growth. I think that 2020 should be a referendum on climate change against a party that is shackled to the forces of ignorance and climate denial,” Inslee told The Hill in an interview last week.
 
“We can win on this by talking about it as a health issue, number one, as an economic issue, number two, and as a moral issue all the time,” he said.
 
Climate change activists suffered a serious setback in 2018 when Washington voters soundly defeated a ballot measure that would have created a carbon tax system aimed at reducing emissions. The measure, Initiative 1631, lost at the ballot box by 17 percentage points.
 
“The defeat of the carbon tax in Washington, and it was a resounding defeat, I think [climate activists’] calculations have been changed,” said Aseem Prakash, a political scientist at the University of Washington and director of the school’s Center for Environmental Politics.
 
Their calculations now run through Olympia, rather than through the ballot box.
 
Washington Democrats this year swept to big majorities in the state House and Senate for the first time in years. Inslee, whose climate initiatives ran into Republican and even some Democratic opposition in recent years, said those candidates would give him the votes necessary to pass a raft of climate change bills.
 
Inslee is one of a handful of Democratic governors who say they plan to make environmental and climate rules a centerpiece of their legislative agendas this year. 
 
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) plans to push for a cap-and-trade system similar to the one underway in California. New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamStates scramble to fill void left by federal shutdown Overnight Energy: Justices reject Exxon appeal in climate case | Interior to use entrance fees to keep national parks open | Dems question legality of move | Hearing on water rule postponed due to shutdown Progressive strategist says changing demographics will help Dems MORE (D) and Colorado Gov.-elect Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisWhere does your governor stand on marijuana legalization? First openly gay man to be elected governor sworn in to office in Colorado 7 heartwarming moments in 2018 politics MORE (D) both say they plan to push for new investments in renewable energy when they take office.
 
Only one of those governors, though, has his eye on the White House in the immediate future.
 
Inslee, the former head of the Democratic Governors Association, campaigned with Democratic candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina this year — four states that will kick off the 2020 presidential nominating process.
 
“Jay Inslee’s eyes are not set in Olympia,” Prakash said. “They are set in Iowa.”