- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, D, on Thursday introduced five new pieces of climate legislation aimed at reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, through adoption of a clean fuel standard, increased availability of electric vehicles, an extended tax incentive for low-income community solar projects, and other mechanisms.
- Inslee's plan calls for slashing emissions 95% below 1990 levels in the next three decades. The move follows a Department of Ecology report that predicts Washington could see more wildfires and drought, dwindling snowpack and ocean acidification, as a result of climate change.
- The governor also directed the Department of Ecology to "strengthen and standardize the consideration of climate change risks" when it reviews major fossil fuel projects. The state already has goals to transition to 100% clean electricity.
Washington state is facing "devastating impacts" from climate change, Inslee wrote in a Dec. 19 Medium post, and must take additional steps to reduce emissions. The proposed targets would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030, then 70% by 2040.
Under the proposals, by 2050, the state would aim to be carbon-neutral.
"The latest science says we have further to go before we bring emissions into a range that doesn’t threaten our economic future," Inslee wrote. Through a mix of legislative and supplemental budget proposals, the governor wants to reduce emissions by focusing on transportation, encouraging greater carbon sequestration through the state's forests, and adding renewables.
Washington's transportation sector is responsible for almost 45% of the state's emissions. The proposed clean fuel program would limit emissions per unit of transportation fuel sold in the state, require rideshare companies to reduce their fleet emissions, and increase the availability of zero-emission vehicles.
Inslee also said he will support a $20 million extension of the renewable energy system tax incentive for community solar projects that benefit low-income customers. The state, in its last legislative session, already set a requirement to transition to 100% emissions-free electricity.
The governor also proposed $600,000 to develop a comprehensive analysis of how the state can reduce emissions and support technical analysis to develop future policy proposals.
The executive directive to the Department of Ecology calls for a 20-year and 100-year assessment of emissions related to large projects, including an analysis of any load or fuel growth as a result. To ensure the rules remain consistent, Inslee mandated that they must be developed "in a manner that allows for key inputs to be updated" when national or international climate assessments are adopted.
Clean energy advocates say the new rules could influence the review of a liquefied natural gas plant proposed for Tacoma and a possible gas-to-methanol facility in Kalama.
“This is an important step towards getting a true understanding of the climate impacts of fracked gas," Jesse Piedfort, director of the Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, said in a statement. "These are part of the critical issues at stake for massive new facilities like the ones proposed in Tacoma and Kalama, or the gas appliances that make Washington’s buildings our fastest growing source of climate pollution."
Washington's current greenhouse gas limits include reaching 1990 levels by 2020, and then cuts to 25% below that level by 2035 and 50% by 2050.