Gov. Inslee
Gov. Jay Inslee

In the days following Governor Inslee’s decision to enact a low-carbon fuel standard, thus accepting the Republican provision eliminating some of the State’s multimodal accounts, climate activists found themselves with divergent interests from bike, pedestrian, and transit advocates. STB was gearing up to hold its own internal debate on whether the trade was worth it. But fortunately, the Governor found another way:

The governor asked Ecology Director Maia Bellon to develop substantive emission reductions using existing authority. The process will be open and transparent and all stakeholders will have ample opportunity to express their ideas, options and concerns as the rule development process unfolds.

That process is expected to take about a year.

Unlike the legislation that Inslee proposed to the 2015 Legislature, the regulatory cap will not charge emitters for carbon pollution and therefore would not raise revenue for state operations. The other key difference is the current proposal wouldn’t create a centralized market for trading of emissions credits, though emitters may be able trade amongst themselves…

The conversations surrounded the recently enacted transportation investment package that included the so-called poison pill. That proviso would have moved about $2 billion in funding from multi-modal projects to an unappropriated account if the governor moved ahead with a clean fuel standard.

The governor said today he will not pursue the clean fuel standard.

I understand the regret that this measure won’t raise any revenue, but from an environmental perspective this is nearly the best possible outcome absent legislative commitment to address this problem. The details could sabotage a lot of the good here, but in principle a broad-based system of caps is a more comprehensive, economically efficient approach than tackling fuels alone.

And moreover, there are no direct consequences for multimodal projects, which have good consequences not only for climate change, but for public safety, air and water quality, and social equity.

35 Replies to “Inslee Evades Poison Pill, Will Cap Carbon Emissions”

    1. This has been so byzantine that I haven’t worked out the practical implications of any of the proposals. Much simpler to hear “This state has joined the RGGI carbon-emissions trading market”.

  1. Good news, indeed.

    But I have to admit I had warmed up to the pill … I was just writing a letter to Inslee saying I would support the path he seemed to be on if and only if he broke the seal dramatically and raised fuel fees to levels that capture the actual social costs (per the recent IMF reports).

    My favorite line: “I know it is politically unpopular to engage in a ‘war on cars’ in any state of the US, but I participated in your fundraising specifically because I thought you had the nerve to fight it. I am now an expat living in Amsterdam, and Seattle is the home I’d like to return to after the war on cars has been won by the humans.”

      1. @Joe AvgeekJoe Kunzler

        We still need more direct methods to address the carbon issue. I am just as happy as you that the multi-modal projects were not sacrificed, but I think a citizens initiative to address more strongly limiting carbon is needed asap.

      2. Charles;

        I would so prefer a citizen’s initiatve, a public debate, and a public vote. On matters of state unity such as gay marriage and public safety we’ve proven the Fourth Leg of state government works.

  2. Off topic, but interesting to see Phoenix going for 17 billion in August. I see they plan on 50 miles of LR, whereas Seattle will be lucky to get a 5 mile stub completed in ST3, oh and a few miles north, south and east. (Makes me wonder if a Lake City line wouldn’t be so much more productive and valuable as LR where we could get actual mileage covered per rider fee)

    And of course their sales pitch:–45238

    1. It’s cheap and easy to build LRT down the middle of massively wide boulevards and highways. Doesn’t mean that’s what we should (or even can) do in Seattle.

      1. Not entirely. He chose a different method to start to address carbon limitations. We will need stronger methods soon, but at least for now we didn’t lose what few transit improvements we were allowed through the transportation package.

      2. Blinked? Hardly! He threaded the needle right down the middle. The Legislature would have to act aggressively to circumvent its prior legislative requirement to regulate carbon. Directing the Dept. of Ecology to do just that was a stroke of smart. He’s keeping his powder dry for another day.

        You as a Republican should realize you’ve been handed a gift because if I were advising him, I’d say take the pill…

      3. If this Governor took the pill, transit and other multimodal needs Senator Curtis King wanted to pay ZERO state dollars for would have paid an irreversible price.

        My support for the Republican Party ends when it affects my basic freedoms.

  3. Sodium Hexaflouride is released in the production of electronic and electrical products, metals processing, and various other industries, so it is a substance that isn’t unusual to find being released to the atmosphere as part of various manufacturing processes.

    It is also has a global warming factor around 22,000 times that of carbon dioxide per pound released.

    Install a new light switch in your house? You’ve probably just purchased a product that produced the equivalent global warming of driving across the country several times, thanks to the impact of sodium hexafluoride.

    Not that carbon dioxide is a non-issue, but controlling global warming is going to require controls on substances other than carbon dioxide. Thus, dealing with global warming gases as a whole (including carbon dioxide, but also the perfluorocarbons and related substances) and as part of a general reduction in emissions of global warming substances. That’s probably going to require extensive use of the existing emissions regulatory structure.

    1. You mean “sulfur hexafluoride”, not “sodium hexafluoride”. Sodium hexafluoride can’t and doesn’t exist. Can you cite data where purchasing an electronic device = driving cross country in terms of global warming impact? From a quick look, it seems that although sulfur hexafluoride is much more potent than carbon dioxide per pound, it’s released in such a smaller quantity that it’s a very minor contributor to global warming (< 1%) . Also, most sulfur hexafluoride is used by industry as opposed to individuals (e.g. electronics manufacturers, power plants), and 1 of the best ways to lower how much is released is actually through maintenance to prevent leaks in industrial equipment.

      I'm glad Inslee was able to find a compromise. It wasn't fair to pit environmentalists against transit-lovers, since there's so much overlap between those 2 groups.

    2. I don’t doubt your information, and was shocked to see the cross country analogy comparing emissions.
      Wiki sent me to Sulfur Hexaflouride, which is equally potent, so I’m wondering if the two compounds are the same.
      It also went on to say “Given the low amounts of SF6 released compared to carbon dioxide, its overall contribution to global warming is estimated to be less than 0.2 percent”, but I’m no chemist, and am asking for some clarification before I get freaked out.

      1. I’ll have to dig up a better source. I knew there were some pretty awful things out there (I work with a couple of them but not sodium hexaflouride). The one I found have the correct chemical formula but gave it the wrong name. I should have remembered from my (decades age) chemistry class that Na = sodium.

        Even so, the basic idea that more than just carbon should be regulated remains.

    3. And, of course, a huge amount of terrible shit is emitted and dumped at sea, and emitted into the air and water by ships even within countries that otherwise have relatively strong pollution controls.

      The US “Clean Air Act”, as I understand it, is designed first to provide a predictable regulatory environment for polluters — abide by the standards in place when your plant was built and you’re basically free to pollute in this way forever, and are shielded from civil suits around air pollution even if you harm someone. The regulatory structure we need is, “If you emit it, if you dump it, you’re responsible for it.” This puts the onus on polluters to understand and control the pollution they create, including new types of pollution. Some of CA’s air pollution laws were intended to set a course like this, but they’ve been chipped away to the point that this it effectively hasn’t mattered, and CARB is set to be retired as federal standards catch up. But the overall intent of federal regulation has never, to my knowledge, included this fundamental notion of responsibility.

  4. Happy to hear the Northgate bridge may be finally safe (I hope?)

    I do think we should do more about carbon though. Perhaps a citizens initiative carbon tax could get around this poison pill business. I would both sign and vote for it.


  5. I’m glad to see that the Governor is working to reduce carbon emissions and since transportation is half our total, we should enable EV usage by installing public charging facilities across the state. Not only does that promote e-tourism, it also enables people living outside of cities to effectively use EVs for transportation purposes.

    1. There are a lot of rapid charging stations throughout Western WA and more are popping up all the time. I have family in Skagit County that doesn’t have a problem using a Nissan Leaf to get around most of the time. Admittedly it might be different in Eastern WA, but they’ll get there eventually.

      Lease returns on the first generation models of EV cars are just starting to arrive at dealerships and they’re flying off the lots. They’re very affordable and of course the savings on maintenance and gas makes them even cheaper. Within a few years there will be tons more on the road than there are already and EV charging stations will inevitably be everywhere, even without state subsidy.

  6. The irony, of course, is that the Republicans have inadvertently created a much larger burden on their business allies than if they had agreed to a carbon tax.

    Regulatory approaches to carbon reduction are less efficient than tax-driven approaches, because they are less flexible. So you need a greater burden of costs for the same amount of carbon reduction.

    But regulatory mandates allow Republicans to say they didn’t increase taxes, and that seems paramount.

  7. @Charles B, Dan Ryan, and others interested in carbon taxes – there are at least 2 initiative campaigns toward that end. See Page 2 for a bit more on the topic.
    Meanwhile, (depending on the details of what he has authority to do) Inslee has made the best choice available to him, and the poison pill probably helped push him there.

Comments are closed.