The Wasteful and Costly Mess of Washington’s Climate Legislation »Publications» Washington Policy Center


If you want to know why Washington State’s climate strategies (not to mention other state environmental policies) fail so frequently, the situation with Washington’s sweeping new climate policies is just the latest example.

Today, the governor signed two climate laws – a bill to cap statewide CO2 emissions and a low-carbon fuel standard. He also illegally vetoed paragraphs of the law, removing the requirement that a transportation package must be passed before either of the bills could be implemented. This demand was part of a “big deal” that was supposed to ensure that the cost of climate legislation would not compromise the ability to finance transport.

The governor’s veto drew a rapid response from Speaker of the House Jenkins who promised to prosecute the governor for this misuse of his authorization. Jason has a good explanation of why the governor’s veto is illegal.

This is a good metaphor for Washington’s climate policy in general – highly political, unnecessarily divisive, uncoordinated, and ultimately costly.

First, it should be remembered that the bills themselves are unnecessarily expensive. Instead of using all the money to expand government programs and fund special interests, the money could have been used to reduce taxes and reduce the burden of high policy costs. As it is, cap and trade alone will add about 18 cents to the price of a gallon of gas in 2023, plus additional costs for heating and electricity to the home. We estimate this will add between $ 340 and $ 390 in taxes per year to a family with two cars. This will increase over time. The low-carbon fuel standard will add an additional 1 to 2 cents per gallon in 2023, rising to about 20 cents per gallon by 2030.

Second, the low carbon fuel standard is particularly unnecessary. When combined with cap and trade, it literally does nothing to reduce CO2 emissions. It simply requires that some transportation emissions be reduced at an extremely costly basis, but does not add to the total emission reductions. It is a pure transplant and really irresponsible.

Third, the chaos surrounding vetoes will likely only be the beginning of the controversy over how these bills are implemented. The cap and trade of CO2 emissions are designed to cover virtually all aspects of energy use in Washington State and will impact the costs of households, businesses, jobs and control. government of the economy. Despite the radical nature of the rules, there are few guidelines in the bill that govern how decisions on these matters will be made.

For example, the Department of Ecology will draft rules governing energy-intensive industries facing international competition. If climate legislation makes these companies uncompetitive, they will simply shut down (as we’ve seen with the aluminum factories in Washington) and manufacture their products elsewhere. We are losing jobs and economic benefits, but CO2 emissions are simply being emitted elsewhere in the world. To avoid this, ecology has a great deal of latitude in determining which industries are exempt and to what extent. The law assumes that the ministry can accurately assess a reasonable level of emission reductions that will not cause the company to leave the state. The companies themselves find it difficult to adapt to international competition and they have strong motivations and detailed knowledge on their side. An outside agency that pays no price for failure and has limited information is extremely unlikely to come up with the right answer. There will certainly be mistakes and the agency will also have to face external pressure from environmental groups who have already attacked exemptions for these industries in legislative hearings.

Additionally, cap-and-trade legislation creates a dedicated social justice panel, which will influence how the money raised by the new taxes is spent. The aim of the group is to make decisions that would replace objective and science-based measures. Rather than saying that funding should be spent in a way that maximizes CO2 emission reductions, or some other objective standard, the Social Justice Panel is a political body that will direct funding according to members’ political goals.

These are just two examples of how subjective judgment and politics will continue to cause controversy in state climate policy. And based on the conflict between the governor and the Legislative Democrats, there will be more controversy to come in how the laws are implemented.

This controversy was unnecessary and avoidable and the costs will be paid by the people of Washington and, as mistakes are inevitably made in law enforcement, by the environment.

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