We must use every state-level opportunity to counteract the fossil-fuel industry’s massive climate-denying influence in Washington DC. There are important bills in Olympia right now, and lawmakers are facing an important deadline to advance the below bills by Wednesday, February 14. Please call your legislators or click on each bill number to write your comments.
Klickitat County state legislators (District 14):
In a rough order of impact, here are the most important climate-related bills in the session now:
1) 100% clean energy (SB 6253) will stop WA utilities from investing in new fossil-fuel generation, achieve a fossil-free grid by 2045, and ban coal by wire after 2030. SB 6253 is a no-brainer because it simply directs utilities to stop investing in polluting fossil-fuel infrastructure that is already economically obsolete or will soon be.
The opposition arguments cling to dogmatic assertions that renewables and storage technologies will be too expensive, as if they won’t ever get any cheaper (solar and battery storage prices continue to drop 10% annually). The sooner we stop investing in the old, the less our children will be paying for stranded assets. Let’s stop making it worse so we can make it better!
2) Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) (HB 2328) signs up Washington to join California’s ZEV program, which forces automakers to either deliver an increasing percentage of their light vehicles as ZEVs or to buy credits from ZEV manufacturers. Oregon has adopted this program, and Washington needs to adopt this to make EVs more affordable.
The ZEV program adds cost to conventional gas and diesel vehicles and that money decreases costs of ZEVs. Lower costs will help to accelerate the transition to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), pluggable hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs). The money comes from fossil-fuel vehicle sales, which continue to populate our vehicle fleet with gas guzzlers that will burn gasoline throughout their useful lifetime. The point of sale is where buyers should feel the lifetime social costs of their polluting purchase. The social cost of burning gasoline has been conservatively estimated to be around $3.80 per gallon (comparable to $380/MTCO2e); the effective cost of HB 2328 to gas guzzlers is far below that level. By 2020, 100 models of ZEVs of all categories will be available in the market.
The Republican opposition claims that the ZEV program is ineffective. But price incentives have been demonstrated to be highly effective for electric vehicle (EV) sales. The opposition comes from automakers who aren’t ready for the EV revolution, and indirectly through oil money that widely supports Republican caucuses.
3) Clean Fuels (HB 2338), creating jobs in locally-grown clean fuels, reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and protecting our kids’ health. California, Oregon, and British Columbia have all implemented similar programs that are working well.
The largest vehicle transition coming is an exponential growth in electric vehicles (EVs), because they cost about ¼ as much to fuel and maintain. HB 2338 will help to accelerate the EV transition for Washingtonians. It’s time to start busting up the oil monopoly and increasing the availability of cleaner alternatives! Of course, Big Oil will viciously resist this bill as risky, unfair, un-American, and just crazy, as they did when Oregon passed it.
4) The Solar Fairness Bill (SB 6081) has advanced to a Senate floor vote (deadline Feb. 14), and Senator King’s vote is necessary to preserve customers’ ownership of the power that they generate and to encourage more distributed energy generation (i.e., rooftop solar) and storage.
The Klickitat County Public Utility District (KPUD) is proposing to change the rules for customers who generate their own power—instead of paying them the going rate for their own power, KPUD wants to pay only about 1/3 of that. KPUD asserts that solar power is not as valuable to them as 7X24 power they buy, and therefore they shouldn’t fully reimburse ratepayers for what they contribute. Not only is this totally different from their Net Metering Agreements signed with customers, but such a policy leads to logical inconsistencies like customers not owning the power they generate. More seriously, the policy frustrates the very customers that utilities must increasing serve to maintain their customer base as new solar and storage systems become affordable (prices are dropping about 10% annually). To encourage a future with more rooftop solar and distributed generation and storage for community resilience, urge legislators to pass SB 6081.
5) Reducing carbon pollution by moving to a clean energy economy (SB 6203) is a another valiant attempt to make a carbon tax work. It sounds so logical—tax pollution and use the revenue to support emission-reduction projects—but the practical problems with reaching a high enough economy-wide price and proving efficacy haven’t been solved after 20 years of attempts around the world.
SB 6203 would charge fossil fuel suppliers for their climate-warming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The data does not show that a low enough price to be politically practical accomplishes much. For example, British Columbia’s $25 per ton has not slowed their growth of toxic or climate emissions. The proposed Washington bill is better than BC’s policy, in that the revenue is directed at decarbonizing our energy infrastructure. However, it also requires that the WSU extension service directs the annual spending of an estimated $1.7 billion on emissions projects, with a requirement that the legislature approves all the capital spending every two years. Meanwhile the cost-performance capabilities of clean-energy technologies are rapidly improving, such as the prices of wind, solar, batteries, and EVs dropping 10-20% every year; so how could the funding process possibly keep pace with such dynamic markets? By the time a project is funded, it is entirely possible that state funding is not necessary, or that the state funding is simply a windfall for the companies supplying the new infrastructure. Sector-specific mandates, such as the other bills, have been and will be much more effective for accelerating the energy transition and saving Washingtonians many billions of dollars from purchasing fossil fuels and then paying for the current healthcare and future climate change costs of combusting those fuels.