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Federal Clean Power Plan Offered While Washington State Fails To Advance Its Own

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Environmental groups are calling the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan the strongest action the U.S. has ever taken to fight climate change.

Yet in Washington State, a plan to cap-and-trade carbon emissions failed to get through the legislature – despite a Governor who won an election on the promise of a clean-energy economy.

Gov. Jay Inslee blames the legislature for the lack of a clear climate policy in the state. He acknowledges his political reputation is riding on it. But, he says, lawmakers are not cooperating with him.  

“They’ve produced zero when it comes to any meaningful carbon reduction plan," Inslee said Monday. "So now it’s time for the Executive branch to act because it is our responsibility.”

That’s why Inslee last week directed the state department of Ecology to forge ahead with the cap portion of his cap-and-trade plan.

“It’s like a stop sign," he said. "If you want to stop people from driving from an intersection you put up a stop sign. We need to put up a stop sign, a binding limit on carbon pollution.”    

But business groups say there’s a risk that could actually send jobs to another state – without stopping the pollution. Some are favoring an alternative plan – for a straight carbon tax, modeled after one in British Columbia.

Todd Meyers is with the conservative Washington Policy Center – he says the seductiveness of cap-and-trade is the idea that you can draw that line in the sand.

But, he says, that line doesn’t work.

“Cap systems tend to be very complicated about what counts and what doesn’t and who gets it and are they grandfathered – and all of those things get gamed.”

That’s why he is one of the key supporters of a rival to Inslee’s plan – an initiative for a carbon tax, putting the extra price on carbon first and letting market forces do the work of cutting pollution.    

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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