Washington State, King County, Working on Ambitious Climate Change Policies


US state and local governments continue to lead the way in terms of fighting climate change aggressively. Yesterday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted that Washington state has lagged a bit behind neighbors Oregon and California. If Gov. Chris Gregoire and King County executive Ron Sims have their way, though, these jurisdictions will be passing new measures that make the state and the county competitive with other Western efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions and create new jobs in the "clean technology" sector:

The governor ...proposed dramatic cuts statewide in the pollutants that scientists blame for warming the planet. She set goals for 2020 of tripling the number of jobs in clean energy and of paring by 20 percent the amount of money spent on fuel imported into Washington.

State lawmakers went even further, additionally proposing stricter standards for new natural gas and coal plants, offering incentives to help utilities invest in conservation technology, proposing buying plug-in hybrid vehicles for state agencies and creating an Office of the State Climatologist, which would advise on the local effects of global warming. ...

Sims took more aggressive action on Wednesday, laying out a 176-page plan that he said would set the county on a path to reduce greenhouse gas production 80 percent from current levels by 2050.

Those are numbers that even George Monbiot could love! The state's situation is somewhat unique in that Washington gets much of its electricity from hydroelectric power, so efforts must focus more on transportation than in other locations. With annual emissions of over 88 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, officials at all levels of government will need search every source of pollution for reductions. The proposal are getting favorable responses, though: not only is the environmental community on board, but the business community regards Gregoire's proposals as "measured." Republicans in the state legislature have declined to respond so far, and the House's speaker, a Democrat, noted that support may not come for the measures until next year.

The word "bold" is getting thrown around, and much of the buzz involves the economic opportunities created by such plans. We must admit that it's kind of satisfying to see that peer pressure can work at the governmental level, too! The article also provides some context by showing Washington, Oregon and California's standards for renewable energy generation, vehicle emissions, and overall greenhouse gas levels. If not already in place (and they're on the table in Seattle), we hope that building standards and efficiency goals also work there way into these equations. ::Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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