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State senator puts Inslee's clean energy bill on fast track

Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing to get Washington state to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. And he's not alone. Dozens of environmental groups, labor organizations, local governments and clean energy businesses also support the idea. 

The 100 percent clean energy bill would phase out all coal from the state’s grid by 2025. It would set interim targets for 2030, and increase investments in renewable sources and energy efficiency to get to carbon-free electricity by 2045.

The Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee held its first hearing on the measure (Senate Bill 5116) Thursday morning. As he opened up public testimony, Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle, the committee's chairman, said he's aiming for a vote on the bill next week.

“This is an important piece of legislation that has had a number of years’ worth of work. Our public utilities and our private utilities are important partners in this. And we’re working very hard to recognize the social justice implications, the labor implications and the smart business implications.”

Carlyle says they're proud of the legislation, but open to dialogue and amendments.  

Several utilities giving testimony expressed concerns about reliability and affordability. So did a representative of energy intensive businesses in the state. Carlyle encouraged critics with specific suggestions to submit them in writing. But he was clear at the outset that he wants this legislation to move out of his committee as soon as possible.

“California is moving forward, Hawaii is moving forward, states all over the country,” Carlyle said.  “And we have the entrepreneurial energy to build the kind of renewable energy economy that the people of the state will support."

A recent poll showed widespread support for clean energy in Washington, despite the failure of the Initiative 1631, a carbon tax measure.

But many testifying at the hearing said there's a need to address historic inequities for lower-income households while moving to 100 percent carbon-free electricity. 

State Republicans have put forward their own clean energy bill, with an emphasis on keeping energy costs and taxes low.

The hearing came on the same day that Gov. Inslee was scheduled to meet with former California Gov. Jerry Brown to discuss climate change and clean energy.

Inslee is among a crowded field of Democrats eyeing a 2020 presidential bid, and he's looking for a legislative win on his climate agenda. Inslee and Brown were to have a private meeting with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate on Thursday afternoon, to discuss the measure before briefly talking with the media.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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