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Washington Legislature passes carbon pricing measure

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington is on track to become the second state in the nation to have a comprehensive carbon pricing policy under a measure passed by the state Legislature Saturday.

The Seattle Times reported that the Senate gave the final 27-22 vote on the measure. It now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee, who had requested the legislation.

“We are genuinely, authentically on the march toward Paris accord levels of emissions reductions,” said Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill contains a provision that the policy would only take effect as scheduled in 2023 if the Legislature passes a new statewide transportation-spending package by then, and that package would have to include an increase in the gas tax of at least five cents per gallon.

It’s unlikely that lawmakers will be able to pass such a package by the end of the 105-day session. But leaders have indicated that they will continue to work on the issue after the regular session ends.

The proposal creates a “cap-and-invest” program to gradually set tighter limits on carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases. It requires polluters to decrease emissions steadily or buy allowances for pollution.

The money collected would go toward projects that include, among other things, energy conservation, transportation and assistance for a transition to clean energy.

The overall pool of carbon credits are to be gradually reduced by 2050, in order to hit a goal of net-zero emissions.

The measure also adds requirements that air quality be monitored in communities that suffer disproportionate environmental and health effects from pollution.

Republicans have blasted the legislation as a burden on businesses that would also mean increased costs for Washingtonians.

“What I feel in my heart right now is a very heavy weight, because I know that there are families in my district from across the racial demographic who will never be able to bear the weight of what this bill promises,” said Sen.
Ann Rivers, R-La Center, during Saturday’s floor debate.

Environmental groups Saturday hailed the legislation’s passage. In a statement, Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians and vice president of the Quinault Indian Nation, said lawmakers had

“finally boldly confronted the existential threat of climate change.”

A representative for the energy company BP on Saturday also applauded the bill’s success in a statement, calling it a

“critical bill for lowering carbon emissions.”

Carlyle also pointed to a deal struck by Democratic lawmakers that could bring votes Sunday on a low-carbon transportation fuels standard, another longtime priority of many Democrats.

“This is going to have really substantial implications” for reducing carbon emissions across Washington, he added.

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