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Inslee Proposes Cap And Trade To Raise Revenue, Cut Carbon Emissions

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, second from left, speaks Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, at REI's flagship store in Seattle.

Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s time to make polluters pay for carbon emissions. He’s proposed a cap-and-trade system that he says will raise a billion dollars a year while helping the state drastically reduce its contribution to global warming. 

Under Inslee’s plan, the state would set an annual limit on carbon emissions and make industries purchase allowances for the pollution they emit. He says the billion dollars a year it would generate will fund education, transportation and assistance to those most impacted by high energy costs. He made the announcement Wednesday, flanked by Democratic lawmakers and other supporters during a news conference at REI in Seattle.

“Because it’s time for polluters to pay their fair share to help solve this problem,” Inslee said.

Under the plan, the number of available allowances for carbon emissions would decline to ensure gradual reduction. And Polluters that cut emissions below the cap could sell leftover permits to others who pollute more. Purchases would take place at a public auction, Inslee said.

“The market will determine the cost. We have modeled that very, very carefully with very sophisticated ways and we have set a minimum price for that auction. So we have a lot of confidence of what it will generate. It’ll generate about a billion dollars a year,” he said. 

The Democratic governor predicted "several months of storm and fury" at the legislature in response to the proposal, but said he thinks Republican lawmakers will eventually have to come around. There’s a budget gap of nearly $2 billion over the next two years because of the education mandate from the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.   

“They may conclude that it’s better to tax pollution than voters, it’s better to tax polluters than drivers,” he said.

Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen called the proposal a general fund tax increase that will hurt working families and businesses. He says refineries will likely pass the new costs on to consumers in the form of higher fuel costs. He argues instead for incentives to encourage cleaner energy alternatives.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to