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Cap-and-trade bill moves a step closer to passage in Olympia

In a 13-11 party-line vote on March 22, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s keystone “cap-and-invest” bill for capping carbon emissions cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee and headed to the floor for a possible vote.  AGC opposes the measure.

The action was significant, because it indicates a level of Democratic support that some of Inslee’s past climate initiatives have failed to garner.

Senate Bill 5126—the Washington Climate Commitment Act—would establish a cap-and-invest program that, over time, lowers the level of emissions through the auction of a pool of allowances, the size of which is gradually reduced over time.

“There are elements of this bill that AGC appreciates but, on balance, we believe it will have a detrimental impact on the economy,” testified AGC chief lobbyist Jerry VanderWood before the Committee. “Among other things, we are concerned that the bill gives the Department of Ecology regulatory powers beyond the carbon-reduction goals of a cap-and-trade program.”

In addition to creating the cap-and-invest mechanism, the bill also requires an environmental justice review to ensure that the cap-and-invest program reduces pollutants in overburdened communities highly impacted by air pollution.

Notably, though, the bill is tied to a transportation funding package. To address concerns that the bill would divert funds from transportation priorities, it suspends compliance obligations until a transportation act is passed where the combined total of new state revenues deposited into the motor vehicle fund and multimodal transportation account exceeds $500 million per biennium. 

Plus, about 50% of the revenues raised by the bill would be earmarked for transportation — about $5.2 billion over 16 years. These connections to a transportation package were negotiated between the prime sponsor, Sen. Carlyle, and Sen. Steve Hobbs, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, who is putting together a $16 billion transportation-funding package. Sen. Hobbs assumes much of the funding for his package would come from this legislation.

While opposing the bill overall, AGC expressed its support for ensuring that, should the bill be passed, the connection and funding for transportation be maintained.

For more information, contact AGC chief lobbyist Jerry VanderWood, 360.352.5000.

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