Dignitaries at Electric Highway charging station site in Bellingham, WA; photo: Washington State DoT
Washington State will follow the lead of California and develop its own clean-energy policy to cut the state's carbon emissions by 2020, its governor said on Tuesday.
Democrat governor Jay Inslee signed a major executive order to set up a task force for acting on various climate-related issues, from reducing energy, to cutting pollution, to encouraging cleaner vehicles.
Transportation is a major focus. Transportation-related sources accounted for 44 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, and cars alone were almost a quarter of the total.
Cooperating with the Department of Transportation, Inslee's aim is to develop an action plan to advance electric vehicle use.
This will include financial and non-financial incentives for both consumers and businesses, as well as infrastructure funding and changes to building codes--perhaps encouraging the installation of charging points in new buildings.
Inslee is keen to reduce the use of coal for energy production in favor of renewables, encourage cleaner technology, and promote energy efficiency--with the aim of working towards energy-neutral buildings.
The governor's taskforce will recommend the design and implementation of carbon emission limits, with caps on pollution and binding requirements for businesses.
At the same time, the office will work to offset any cost impacts to consumers and workers, particularly those in low-income households.
Ultimately, the task force wants to cap an expected $10 billion in climate change-related problems in the state after 2020--curbing everything from environmental damage to water supply and public health issues.
Summarized in a tweet, Gov. Inslee says that "This is the right time to act; This is the right place; And we are the right people to make this happen".
The move has already drawn criticism from opposing parties. The News Tribune writes that Sen. Doug Ericksen is "disappointed" that Inslee acted without any forewarning.
Inslee did an "end-run around the state Legislature," he said, imposing regulations that will "choke job creation" and "add huge energy costs to the budgets of average families".
Inslee's office claims the opposite, a summary paper suggesting non-environmental benefits of the policies would improve job growth--particularly in the clean energy sector--benefit landowners providing feedstock for cleaner fuels, and expand energy investments.
Citing a study by the Western Climate Initiative, proposed changes could result in a net increase of 19,300 jobs and improved economic output in Washington of $3.3 billion by 2020--in addition to the huge environmental benefits.
You can read full details of the nine-page executive order here.
[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]