Legislative update 0305: Clean energy bill moves forward

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Yesterday was day 51 of the 2019 Legislative Session. This past Friday, March 1, was the fiscal committee cutoff, the deadline by which nonbudget bills had to be passed out of fiscal committees in order to remain alive. Now that the deadline has passed, most committees will not meet for the next week and a half as both chambers work to move bills off the floor before the next major legislative deadline, Wednesday, March 13, by 5:00 p.m. That is the day that nonbudget bills must be passed out of their chamber of origin in order to remain alive (unless a bill gets exempted from cutoff as “necessary to implement the budget” or NTIB).

Gov. Inslee announces 2020 presidential campaign

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he is running for president in 2020. Inslee announced the bid in a video made public. In launching his candidacy, Gov. Inslee made it clear he intends to make combating climate change the central focus for his campaign. “I’m Jay Inslee, and I’m running for president because I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority.”

Later that day, he held a news conference in Seattle at a solar panel installer, A &R Solar, to expand upon his presidential announcement. He will headquarter his campaign in Seatle.

Gov. Inslee was first elected to the Washington House of Representatives in 1989 and was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. Inslee lost his re-election in 1994, but successfully ran for Congress again in 1998, a job he held until he successfully ran for governor in 2012. Recently he served as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

100% clean energy bill passes the Senate

Governor-request legislation aimed at removing all thermal generation from the state’s electricity system by 2045 continues to move through the process. It requires all utilities to service load with 80 percent of their power coming from renewable or “nonemitting” (of CO2) power generation by 2030 and sets a policy goal of 100 percent of utilities’ power to come from renewable or “nonemitting” sources by 2045. The bill includes existing hydroelectric dams as renewable power sources, so most public utilities in the state already exceed the 2030 standard, but private utilities (and two fossil fuel-intensive PUDs) will require extensive investments.

Last Friday, E2SSB 5116 passed off the Senate floor with a vote of 28-19. Sen. Sheldon, a conservative Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, joined Democrats in approving the bill on an otherwise party-line vote. Twenty-two amendments were debated, but only four were adopted by the chamber.

Senate transportation revenue package funded by carbon tax receives hearing

Last week, there was a hearing on Sen. Steve Hobbs’, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, new transportation revenue package, Forward Washington [SB 5970 (bond authorization)/5971 (revenue package)/5972 (appropriation bill)]. The $17 billion, 10-year proposal provides funding to big ticket projects and adds money to many important transportation programs. The main revenue for this package comes from a new and controversial fee placed on carbon ($15/metric ton); a 6 cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax; and development impact fees on new development across the state. Forward Washington provides an increase of $1 billion for highway maintenance, funding for fish passage barrier removal, and funding important construction projects around the state.

Sen. Hobbs views his transportation proposal as a compromise on the discussion around carbon pricing in Washington, primarily because it places a flat price on carbon and uses those revenues to fund important infrastructure projects rather than giving it to an unelected board like the recently failed ballot measure proposed. The carbon fee is largely directed to fund transportation electrification infrastructure and other priority projects like fish barrier removals and stormwater mitigation. However, the revenue package faces a heavy lift, as voters have rejected similar carbon pricing initiatives in 2016 and 2018. More details about Forward Washington, including detailed project lists and summary documents can be found here.