Another great guest post from The Policy Junkie. If you want to read more by Tim, check out his blog on New Orleans music and culture here.
Senator Doug Ericksen’s bill weakening the Washington law, approved by initiative, that mandates alternative energy development passed the State Senate on Monday. But not without a debate on whether the legislature believes human activities contribute to global climate change.
SB 5735 would allow power utilities to meet the alternative energy mandate under Initiative 973, by investing in carbon reduction activities. But most of the Senators who voted for the bill, didn’t agree with the notion that human activities in producing carbon gases are contributing to climate change.
Sen. Ericksen’s bill amends the Energy Independence Act so that electric utilities can earn credit towards the Act’s renewable energy mandate by underwriting other carbon reduction activities, even those unrelated to power generation. The bill also allows the utility to escape the mandate if it spends up to 1 percent of its revenues on carbon reduction activities.
The bill passed 26 to 23 with Democratic Senators Maralyn Chase (Shoreline), Jim Hargrove (Hoquiam), and Brian Hatfield (Raymond) joining all the Republican Senators except for King County Senators Andy Hill (Redmond), Steve Litzow (Mercer Island), and Mark Miloscia (Federal Way). Self-declared Democrat Senator Tim Sheldon voted for the bill.
But before the final vote, Sen. Ericksen thwarted a Democrat attempt to create an intent section that said “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” He successfully offered an alternative intent section that said “human activity may contribute to climate change.”
Despite using “may” instead of “might,” the ensuing debate over the competing intent sections once again highlighted the inability for the State Senate to reach a consensus on the causes of climate change.
Sen. Ranker, who sat on a Governor-Legislative climate workgroup with Ericksen in 2013, seemed noticeably impatient with the Senate’s failure to recognize the role of humans in climate change. “Stop waffling!”
But Ranker wasn’t as impatient as Ericksen who seemed anxious to get past this awkward issue for his caucus and get to the substance of the bill.
On final passage, Senator Cyrus Habib, who proposed the amendment, noted that the title of the bill was to “provide incentives for carbon reduction investments.” What is the point of investing in carbon reduction activities if humans are not the problem, he asked.
“If it’s not human activity, why have a bill that attempts to reduce carbon?” noted Habib.
Perhaps to undercut a renewable energy mandate that has never been liked by Senator Ericksen and many of his colleagues. Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) made it clear when, speaking for the bill, he said he would rather “gut” the Energy Independence Act.
The Governor’s proposal to install a greenhouse gas cap on major emitters (HB 1314) receives a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee, Thursday at 3:30 p.m. This will be the second House committee to review the bill. The Senate has yet to consider the Governor’s proposal.