Ecology opposes bills to exempt agriculture from climate legislation

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CAPITAL PRESS – DON JENKINS – OLYMPIA — Democrats are moving ahead with climate-change legislation championed by Gov. Jay Inslee. Meanwhile, two Republican-sponsored bills to prevent farmers and food processors from losing market share because of carbon-cutting laws ran into opposition Monday from the Department of Ecology.

House Bill 1984 would exempt food processors from ordered reductions in greenhouse gases or carbon taxes. House Bill 1985 would give farmers regulatory relief if out-of-state competitors emitted more greenhouse gases.

Singling out food processors for preferential treatment would affect other industries, Ecology Air Quality Program Manager Stu Clark told the House Environment and Energy Committee. “Such an exemption would shift the cost and responsibility onto the other sectors of the economy (and) unfairly saddle them with the burden of responding,” he said.

Comparing the greenhouse gases released in producing a Washington grown crop to the same crop elsewhere would be a monumental job, Clark said. “We would expect a large number of the commodity producers to ask, and each one of those analyses is going to take weeks and weeks to complete,” he said.

While those bill are unlikely to move, legislation to mandate more alternative transportation fuels and renewable energy, and embrace the 2015 Paris climate agreement are moving along in House and Senate committees.

At a press conference Monday, Inslee said he was pleased with the progress legislators were making. “We have a suite of clean energy and climate bills that are moving,” he said.

At Monday’s hearing, Food Northwest lobbyist Dan Coyne said food processors are committed to cutting their energy consumption. “That is the best way, from the industry’s perspective, to deal with carbon legislation,” he said.

Food Northwest, formerly known as the Northwest Food Processors Association, and other trade groups are challenging the Inslee administration’s Clean Air Rule. The coalition also includes the Washington Farm Bureau.

The rule mandates that large manufacturers cut greenhouse gases. A Thurston County judge tossed out the rule, finding Ecology had overstepped its authority. The state has appealed, and the state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case March 19.

Major climate-change bills moving ahead include:

  • House Bill 1110 and Senate Bill 5412: Directs Ecology to write rules for a Clean Fuels Program. The goal would be to reduce greenhouse gases from vehicles by 10 percent by 2028 and 20 percent by 2035. The bill’s premise is that electric vehicles and biofuels are at the threshold of widespread commercial deployment. Critics warn it will increase the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel.
  • Senate Bill 5116: Known as the Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act, it mandates that utilities get all their electricity from renewable energy by Jan. 1, 2045. Utilities would have to start meeting benchmarks or pay fines beginning in 2027.
  • House Bill 1113: Adopts the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the non-binding agreement. If the bill passes, Washington’s long-term goal would be to cut greenhouse gases from 1990’s level by 80 percent by 2050. The bill directs Ecology to keep track.

Posted by: DON JENKINS Capital Press , February 18, 2019

Picture: DON JENKINS/Capital Press

A rally Feb. 18 at the Capitol in Olympia attracted signs supporting the federal Green New Deal endorsed by Gov. Jay Inslee. State lawmakers are working on climate-change bills proposed by Inslee.