Washington State Reworking Ambitious Carbon Emissions Plan

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Last December, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee introduced an ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions in the state by forcing polluters to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, however, scared businesses and drew criticism for being anti-business, among other complaints.

Democrats in the state legislature, eager to salvage the legislation, have been working on recrafting the proposal to address some of the concerns raised by businesses and state Republicans. Their version accomplishes some of the same goals as Gov. Inslee’s proposal, in that it sets overall limits on gas emissions and requires polluters to pay for carbon emissions.

But it differs by offering rebates to targeted manufacturers to make it easier for them to comply. These manufacturers include food, metal, and paper manufactures, as well as those in “energy-intense industries”. These producers would be refunded their compliance costs during the first five years. Fuel suppliers would also benefit by receiving a rebate to the tune of 75 percent, in an effort to counter a criticism that the bill would increase the price of fuel.

According to state Democrats, the plan would raise $1.3 billion for the state, while also creating jobs in rural areas.

This bill is the latest in a long line of proposals that have provided plenty of fuel for the debate between conservationists who want to reduce carbon emissions and pro-business critics who want to protect businesses from excessive regulation and costs. In this instance, Democrats in Washington have chosen to use revenue for the state as a carrot-on-a-stick to encourage passage and compliance. They’ve also offered substantial rebates to businesses in the state as a way to address their complaints.

This could be a model for how to handle greenhouse gas emissions legislation going forward in other states, should the bill pass through a Republican-controlled state senate. The prime objective has always been pro-business advocates on both sides of the aisle that worry about the negative economic impact that could result from making producers pay more for their emissions. If this plan works, both sides of the debate could be closer to a mutually-approved solution moving forward.