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Western state's governor makes his case for voters to preserve Climate Commitment Act

Though the CCA’s stated goal is to reduce carbon emission levels by 95% by 2050, Inslee said that “the basic fundamental purpose of this program, is to reduce pollution."

Published: May 13, 2024 6:03pm

(The Center Square) -

At a Monday morning press conference regarding the results of the state’s Climate Commitment Act, Gov. Jay Inslee sought to make thinly veiled case for why voters should reject an initiative on the November ballot that would repeal the revenue-generating program.

Though the CCA’s stated goal is to reduce carbon emission levels by 95% by 2050, Inslee said that “the basic fundamental purpose of this program, is to reduce pollution. The fundamental purpose of the Climate Commitment Act is to reduce pollution. We are responding to pollution and getting real benefits out of it.”

Under the CCA, the cap-and-trade program, an emissions limit is set that incrementally lowers. Entities subject to the CCA must purchase emission “allowances” at quarterly auctions, which have generated more than $2 billion so far. Proponents of Initiative 2117 repealing the cap-and-trade program have described it as a “hidden gas tax” that artificially raises gas prices. Although CCA revenue makes up 84% of all spending on electrifying the transportation sector, it is not dedicated specifically toward state transportation infrastructure as gas tax revenue is under a state constitutional amendment.

The CCA is one of many state laws or resolutions intended to reduce Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions. While the latest data available from the state Department of Ecology for 2019 shows that emission levels were their highest since 2007, it does not account for environmental policies enacted since, including the CCA which was passed in 2021 and implemented last year.

Nevertheless, Ecology Climate Pollution Reduction Program Manager Joel Creswell said at Monday's press conference that “we are currently witnessing the effects of climate change every year” that it “threatens the safety of our communities and negatively hurts human health. We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ecology Director Laura Watson said that “we are expecting that those impacts will increase in the future. Thankfully, the Climate Commitment Act is generating the money we need to respond to these impacts. The program is working as intended.”

A large sum of CCA revenue, $1.5 billion, is to be spent electrifying the state’s transportation sector. That includes $563 million for the state’s ferry fleet, the largest in the nation, and $429 million for public transit grants. An additional $45 million is to be spent on electric vehicle infrastructure grants for charging stations on state highways.

Inslee took the opportunity to double down on his stance regarding EV ferries, rather than diesel, arguing that to not do so would be “nuts” and “probably delay getting boats. CCA has a plan for us to get boats as fast as they can. There’s no other way to finance them right now.”

Rather than carbon emission reduction, Inslee focused primarily on the ostensible benefits these projects will have on air quality and air pollution. According to Ecology State Ambient Air Monitoring Coordinator Jill Schulte, the department is installing 50 “SensWa,” a portable sensor for fine particle pollution, throughout the state.

Some CCA revenue would also be directed at improving forest health. Inslee attributed smoke emitted during wildfire seasons that reduce air quality to climate change. However, forestry experts have noted there are a variety of factors that determine the amount of smoke, including fuel moisture levels and heat intensity. Another factor impacting wildfire seasons severity is the level of precipitation during late July and early August that moistens light fuels necessary to ignite wildfires.

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