Our Voice: Carbon cap plans require legislative cooperation

The governor’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force has given him the analysis he needs to move forward with his climate change agenda. The questions now are what will be in the proposal he submits to the Legislature and what he will do if it is not accepted.

It is no secret that reducing carbon pollution in Washington is a top priority for Gov. Jay Inslee. For months the hum in the background indicates he would consider an executive order if that is the only way he could create new, lower-carbon fuel standards.

That would be just one piece of his carbon reduction package, but making an end-run around the Legislature on even a part of the plan goes against the spirit of debate that is necessary for such sweeping reforms.

Indicating that he can do what he wants even if the Legislature does not agree makes it tougher to win over those potentially opposed to his proposal. It also does not help that, before the recent election, he was in talks with a wealthy environmental activist from California who contributed over $1 million trying to get candidates elected who may be sympathetic to Inslee’s clean energy cause.

That effort failed and the Republican-controlled Senate likely will be an especially tough sell for any energy plan that raises the price at the pump.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, Senate Energy Committee chairman, said he would not make an early judgment on the governor’s carbon cutting proposal and is waiting to see it first. However, in the past Ericksen has been among the most vocal critics of Inslee’s agenda to cut carbon pollution.

Republicans are concerned a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program will cost more than struggling families or businesses can handle. Inslee believes there is a way to cut greenhouse gases, help the environment and stimulate the economy at the same time.

Part of the motivation for Inslee’s clean energy agenda is that in 2008 a state law was passed requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent over the next 20 years.

It is understandable then, that Inslee is trying to get Washington ready to comply with these requirements. It is also admirable that he created a volunteer task force to study how best to reduce carbon emissions. While the group did a great deal of analysis, it did not come up with a recommendation.

The report focused on two options — either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade — program, and Inslee has said in the past he prefers the cap-and-trade idea. The report also said more analysis should be done to determine how these reforms might affect businesses and lower-income families.

Reducing carbon emissions is going to mean some big changes and the issue needs to be addressed in a collaborative environment.

Inslee appears driven and focused on making carbon-cutting reforms a primary goal during his term. The package he proposes no doubt will be extensive and it is a good thing there will be critics who urge caution as the plans move through the legislative process. New laws are better when they have been debated and accepted, not when they have been run through.