OLYMPIA – As legislators continue work to come to an agreement on the state operating budget and a funding solution for schools, work has continued to refine the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, which could provide as much as $500 million annually for the general fund while also reducing harmful carbon pollution. Today, a new proposal was introduced that will help reduce pollution, fund education and other vital services and boost Washington’s rural economy.
This Thursday, May 14, the House Appropriations Committee will hear a new proposed substitute to House Bill 1314, offered by Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland). The proposal places a firm cap on carbon pollution while ensuring economic opportunity and job creation across all of Washington. In conjunction with this effort, Senator Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) is introducing a similar bill, SB 6121.
“This is no longer just a climate change bill. This is a rural job creation and recreational access bill that helps reduce the state’s carbon emissions,” Hargrove said. “This program will create thousands of jobs in the renewable resource industry, including our working forests that sequester carbon while at the same time reducing emissions.”
“This new draft proposal advances our goal to reduce carbon emissions so we can have a safe environment while at the same time addressing the major concerns raised by impacted businesses,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien), the prime sponsor of House Bill 1314 and chair of the House Environment Committee. “This new draft is a win-win,” said Fitzgibbon. “It generates about $1.2 billion annually, of which $500 million per year would go to funding our K-12 education system. And it does so by reducing pollution and being responsive to the needs of our economy.”
During two hearings held on an earlier proposal (HB 1314) in January, House Environment Committee members heard from businesses about the impacts of the legislation. Changes in the latest version include significant economic development for rural Washington and additional mitigation of price impacts on competitive industries and rebates to avoid increased costs associated with transportation fuels.
“This proposal asks the polluters to pay while putting us on track to ensure Washington State remains a leader in the fight against climate change,” Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island), said. “It would be difficult to find two more critical issues than education funding and climate change. This plan addresses both needs and does it in a thoughtful way. Asking polluters to pay more for their impact on our communities while supporting education and the environment is a victory we can all claim.”
The money generated by the auction of carbon pollution allowances would be used for:
- $500 million to invest in our K-12 education system.
- $333 million in fuel supplier rebates to limit increases in fuel prices.
- $108 million for the Working Families Tax Rebate, ensuring that low income families are not unfairly impacted.
- $15 million for the Washington Housing Trust Fund.
- $53 million to keep energy intense and trade-exposed industries competitive by covering compliance costs.
- $193 million for the creation of a Working Forests and Local Mills economic development program that provides payments to forest landowners who sell Washington timber to Washington mills.
- $67.5 million in capital projects that enhance forest health, protect habitat, and increase carbon sequestration.
- $21.5 million to address the increasing costs of fire suppression.
- Tax credits for bulk transporters of agricultural products and for mills that generate new jobs.
- Starting in 2017, establishing a $70 million grant program to address cumulative environmental impacts and social and economic disparities.
In addition to economic investments, the new proposal will also increase access to recreational land. This will ensure that Washingtonians and visitors can affordably enjoy our forests and natural lands.
“I think this finds the sweet spot between environmental stewardship, support for rural working families and the interests of the industries impacted,” said Hargrove. “At this point, all options have to be on the table. When people take a closer look, they will realize that this can be a big part of the solution for the people and natural resources in this state.”