‘We’re nosing our way through the starting gate toward a regional cap-and-trade system and I think that’s detrimental to our families and our employers,’ says Short.
In a late Tuesday night session, the House of Representatives passed legislation that gives the Department of Ecology (DOE) specific authority to continue involvement in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which is intent on creating some sort of cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions.
Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, and ranking Republican on the House Ecology and Parks Committee, said the bill was the "camel’s nose, head and shoulders" under the tent of a regional cap-and-trade proposal.
"Just because the words ‘cap and trade’ have been struck from the bill doesn’t mean the state’s involvement and the Department of Ecology’s authority have been minimized," Short said. "We’re nosing our way through the starting gate towards a regional cap and trade system and I think that’s detrimental to our families and our employers."
While Short said she was pleased that Democrats agreed to strip the vehicle miles travelled (VMT) goals from the bill, the fact that the study and reporting components remain in place causes concern among her, her constituents and her colleagues.
"The fact that the government will study, measure and report on the driving habits of people around the state angers a lot of folks in my district," Short said. "They were angry last year when Democrats wanted to tax drivers based on the size of their engines, and they were angry this year when Democrats initially proposed to forcefully reduce the amount of miles they can drive.
"I’ve got people in my district who must drive 40 miles or more for a loaf of bread," Short continued. "And yet their emissions aren’t any greater than the Puget Sound driver stuck in traffic where it takes 40 minutes to go five miles."
Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5735 passed the House 59-37. Some of the provisions of the bill include:
Giving DOE specific authority to continue involvement in the Western Climate Initiative;
Requiring DOE to develop its best estimate of emissions levels in 2012 for entities that emit 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or greater each year, and the trajectory of emissions reductions necessary in order to meet the 2020 emission reduction requirements;
Requiring coal-fired powered plants in this state to meet performance standards by December 31, 2025;
Requiring DOE to issue reports on forestry and agriculture offsets in December, 2010;
Allowing the governor to appoint a point person for all climate change and energy initiatives.
Short and other House Republicans expressed concerns about remaining on the path towards a regional cap and trade system at a time when the federal government has indicated it will present a national standard soon.
"We’re wasting scarce taxpayer dollars and placing our families and jobs needlessly at risk," Short said. "Washington is very unique in that we have inexpensive, abundant and renewable hydropower. We’re also a very trade-dependent state. Our companies literally do business around the globe. If our employers are going to be held to a more stringent emissions standard, it will place them at a serious disadvantage. We’re going to hamstring their ability to compete, which will cost us more jobs.
"Right now, one of the counties in my district, Ferry County, has the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the state at 17.2 percent," Short added. "The second highest? Pend Oreille County at 16.7 percent, and Stevens County is the third highest at 16.3 percent. Both of these are also in my district.
"I have to ask myself, will this legislation hurt or help unemployment in my district? Will this legislation hurt or help the employers in my district that are still viable? Will this legislation hurt or help attract jobs to my district? I voted against this bill because I can’t see how this helps our employers or unemployment rate one bit," Short said.
House Republicans offered several unsuccessful amendments to the bill, including one that would specifically define "green" jobs.
"We’re hearing so much about green jobs, but nobody really knows what they are," Short said. "They are ethereal and undefined. If we’re going to tout something, we’d better know what it is."
One amendment was offered to prohibit the state from collecting additional money if the legislation causes rate increases on consumers, and another amendment required an independent economic analysis on the costs and possible job losses associated with the bill.
Another amendment tied to jobs would have required the governor to ensure a no-net loss of jobs at comparable wages as a result of the legislation.
"We just want to protect struggling families from higher costs and further job losses," Short said. "The last thing we should be doing in these difficult financial times is adding more economic burden to our families or embracing legislation that will cost us jobs."
Short is also concerned about the increase of authority given to what is essentially a regulatory entity in the Department of Ecology.
House Republicans offered an amendment that would have negated DOE’s authority to issue any new rules or regulations as part of the Western Climate Initiative, requiring instead that all WCI programs be submitted to the Legislature prior to enactment of regulations.
"In my mind, and in the minds of irrigators across the state, DOE already wields too much power," Short said. "With this legislation, DOE will once again be placed in the position of picking the winners and losers in this state.
"I and my House Republican colleagues are ready to address climate change issues in ways that won’t impact employers, won’t increase costs to our families, and protects the freedom of movement our citizens enjoy," Short concluded.
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