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Washington governor to try again for carbon price

19 Dec 2017, 12.01 am GMT

Washington governor to try again for carbon price

San Francisco, 18 December (Argus) — Washington governor Jay Inslee (D) will try to take advantage of a new Democratic majority in the Legislature to pass a carbon pricing bill next year.

Inslee on 14 December proposed using a price on carbon to support the state's primary and secondary education system and end a long-running fight with lawmakers over how best to comply with a 2012 court ruling that said the state had not adequately funded its schools.

"This is the best way that I believe is both fiscally responsible, fulfills our educational mandate to our kids, and simultaneously gives our kids a Washington state that is not ravaged by climate change," Inslee said. "We need to act."

Revenue from the climate program would provide a "temporary infusion" of funds to schools before getting redirected to clean energy projects.

Inslee plans to formally propose the carbon price to the state Legislature in January.

It remains unclear whether the governor will pursue a carbon tax similar to the one proposed earlier this year or go a different route.

The governor's office said last month that the door remains open to cap and trade, which would potentially allow Washington to link its program with the California-Quebec carbon market.

Inslee has run into resistance with both approaches in the Legislature. Republicans have already started lining up in opposition to the proposal.

"If [Inslee] cannot explain the difference between a carbon tax and a carbon pricing plan, then it is a tax," state Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler said.

But Schoesler will have less leverage than in past years after a November special election put Democrats in control of both Senate and House.

Advocates for a carbon price in Washington say that the momentum is on their side.

"We think it is a question of when, not if, the state will adopt a carbon pricing program," said Kyle Murphy, executive director of Carbon Washington, which sponsored an unsuccessful carbon tax ballot initiative in 2016.

Murphy framed Inslee's proposal as an opening bid and said he expects lawmakers to submit different versions of carbon pricing bills next year.

In the absence of broader legislation, state regulators last year adopted a more limited Clean Air Rule, which requires power plants and industrial facilities that emit at least 100,000 metric tonnes of CO2/yr to start lowering emissions by roughly 1.7pc/yr starting this year.

The state's legislative session begins 8 January.

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