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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Under Plan, Inslee Agrees To Higher Clean Fuel Standards For Washington

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn
California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia will will announce a plan Monday to align carbon reduction efforts. Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee has long been a champion for clean energy.

UPDATE: 10/29/2013, 12 p.m. PT: 

The leaders of three West Coast states – including Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee – and the premier of British Columbia agreed on Monday in San Francisco to adopt and maintain low carbon fuel standards. Under the plan, Washington and Oregon commit to mirroring California and British Columbia’s existing clean fuel standards. 

The Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy calls "on each of us to do more – together – to create jobs by leading in the clean energy economy, and to meet our moral obligation to future generations,” Inslee said in a statement.

The deal calls for putting a price on carbon, investing in clean energy technologies and supporting greener transportation.

The plan does have limitations however: It has no legal effect and doesn’t have a funding obligation.  

Original Post: 10/28/2013, 11:09 a.m. PT:

Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia are aligning their efforts to reduce carbon pollution, with an announcement scheduled for Monday.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee told EarthFix the new plan will limit CO2 emissions on the regional level, and he didn’t spare any criticism for the lack of definitive action at the federal level.

The reason we’re acting is that obviously Washington, D.C., is gridlocked. People back there will not allow us to move forward on clean energy and fortunately we have leadership up and down the West Coast, including British Columbia, that recognize our ability to grow jobs around the clean energy economy.

Both carbon taxes and cap-and-trade policies have had traction along the West Coast. Consider

  • British Columbia currently imposes a tax on the output of carbon pollution from power plants, refineries, and other industrial and transportation operations that contribute to global warming. Consumer gas prices went up, but so has the province’s overall GDP – and green house gas emissions are down.
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee this month laid out a cap-and-trade strategy to reduce overall industrial carbon pollution in his state to limit the overall output of carbon dioxide and related pollution.
  • Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has supported a number of approaches, including carbon pricing and green transportation strategies. His 10-year energy plan includes several suggestions for reducing carbon pollution but makes no mention of either a cap-and-trade approach or a carbon tax.
  • California has implemented a cap-and-trade system where companies that emit more than a certain amount of CO2 have to buy permits from those who emit less.

This is the latest effort to align West Coast governments’ strategies around reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s not the first. In 2007 the Western Climate Initiative attempted to join western states and provinces for a united strategy to target greenhouse gas emissions, but the program fizzled several years later.

Angus Duncan, chair of Oregon’s Global Warming Commission, said he’s optimistic that the new pact will put carbon pricing policies back on the table in Oregon and Washington.

“Back in 2004, 2005, 2006, Oregon and other Western states looked at – and in some cases developed – carbon cap-and-trade mechanisms, ways to reduce carbon,” he said. “Oregon and Washington sort of slipped away from that in the course of the recession. … This, I think, gives us the opportunity to revisit questions of carbon caps, carbon taxes or a carbon tax and rebate.”

Governor Inslee has long been a champion of clean technology and renewable energy.

But his regional plan is already getting some push back from home – even from within his own Climate Legislative and Executive Work Group. Shelly Short is a Republican representative from Northeastern Washington who serves on the Governor’s climate work group. She is a climate change skeptic and says before any state action is taken to put a price on CO2 emissions, more study needs to be done on how much that move will cost citizens.

“If he wants to work on a regional basis, more power to him,” she said. “If I was asked to vote right now, today, with the information that I have, I would say no.”

Short’s views run contrary to those of state Senator Kevin Ranker, a Democrat from Orcas Island who also serves on the governor’s climate work group.

“If we don’t put a price on carbon to create a direct incentive for people to act differently, then we’re not doing what we need to do,” Ranker told EarthFix.

The specific details of the plan will be released Monday afternoon.

Cassandra Profita contributed to this report.