Morning FIzz

Democratic Amendment Forces Issue on Climate Change

Caffeinated news featuring amendments, endorsements, and conversation starters

By Josh Feit March 9, 2015

Caffeinated News

1."The legislature finds that climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to climate change. The legislature further finds that climate change is harming the state and that without substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions the harm to the state will be greatly increased." 

Those two sentences—and a couple more about the state emissions limit aspirations, lacking measures to achieve those limits, and taking action in all business sectors to do so—forced Republican state senators Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale) and Joe Fain (R-47, Auburn) to shut down the senate on Friday afternoon.

Ericksen, the chair of the senate environment committee, said the language—an amendment to his bill to roll back voter-approved I-937—was "out of scope." And Senator Fain, the Republicans' majority floor leader, followed up by calling on the senate to be adjourned. 

"Senator Ericksen has stated that carbon reduction isn't the main goal of his proposed legislation, but
the title of his bill is Providing Incentives for Carbon Reduction Investments. So you can see why his argument is somewhat baffling."
—Senator Cyrus Habib

Voters approved I-937 back in 2006; the measure laid out a schedule for big utilities to get at least 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Every session, dating back to 2009,  legislators have tried to scale back the renewable energy initiative, which voters passed 52 to 48.

This session is no exception, and on Friday afternoon the senate was voting on Senator Ericksen's bill to allow utilities to count carbon offsets rather than actually using renewables toward the I-937 goals. The bill passed out of Ericksen's environment committee on a straight party line vote late last month.

Opponents of the bill such as green groups like Climate Solutions and the Northwest Energy Coalition argue that the bill will reduce greenhouse gas reductions; they also pointed out that the bill displaces state oversight with third-party verification.


State senator Cyrus Habib

State senator Doug Ericksen

After senator Cyrus Habib (D-48, Kirkland) proposed adding language to the bill that acknowledged climate change, Ericksen complained to senate president Brad Owen that "the amendment does not deal with the substance or the mechanics" of his legislation and "incorporates ideas not included in the bill" and asked the president to rule it out of order.

Senator Habib tells me: "Senator Ericksen has stated that carbon reduction isn't the main goal of his proposed legislation, but the title of his bill is Providing Incentives for Carbon Reduction Investments. So you can see why his argument is somewhat baffling. It's important that senators be on the same page about the goal of the proposal so that we can determine whether this is the best way to accomplish that goal and so that, in the event of a lawsuit, a judge would understand and apply our legislative intent."

"Besides," Habib concluded, "what are they [the Republicans] afraid of?"

Owen is set to rule today.

2. City council member Tim Burgess, likely facing a challenge from lefty Tenants Union director and affordable housing advocate Jonathan Grant, picked up some helpful endorsements this morning. A list of individuals from the low-income housing advocacy community announced their personal endorsements of  Burgess this morning.

On the list: Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center, Chris Persons, executive director of Capitol Hill Housing, Paul Lambros, executive director of Plymouth Housing, and Marty Kooistra, the executive director of the Housing Development Consortium.

Hobson said in a statement that Burgess "has consistently supported the expansion of affordable housing and has worked with other city leaders to develop a more appropriate response to the growing numbers of people forced to sleep on our streets. As a member of the Community Police Commission, I became impressed with Tim's commitment to real police reform and the steps he has taken to ensure its success."

3. In case you missed Friday afternoon's "One Question," it concludes with this quote from King County Labor Council leader David Freiboth about people who are resisting density: "The real sad part is they're guaranteeing that their grandchildren can't live in the houses they grew up in. It's not because of evil developers but because of the unprecedented growth. Supply and demand will drive the prices of those houses up to the point where their children and grandchildren will not be able to afford to live in those houses. That's what their good-hearted preservation methods are doing." 

4. Speaking of conversation starters: State representative Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) says the senate transportation package is "impotent," "weak," and "embarrassing" because: it relies on "outdated" gas taxes (he wants to look at a vehicle-miles-traveled policy, payroll taxes where employers support transit passes for their workers, and a possible carbon tax on polluters); it trades pet pork projects for votes; and, on a related theme, it sees projects in silos rather than with an integrated, comprehensive system in mind.  

A sampling of Representative Carlyle's complaints:

On the spending side, the ragged idea that gasoline taxes are exclusively for roads, highways, and concrete and not meaningful investment in transit is so impotent it’s embarrassing for us as a state. State dollars exclusively for highways and concrete and local dollars exclusively for transit brings all sides down to the common denominator of self-serving, narrow interests. The lack of transportation connectedness—integrated transportation network of rural, suburban, city, industrial needs—is where the lack of imagination is weak.

On the revenue side, the idea that gasoline taxes continue to be the best form of taxation is itself so outdated it’s hard to imagine a less creative approach. The plan proposes $15 billion in road, bridge, construction, and maintenance investments spread strategically across the state to garner votes. The full range of transit requests add another $15 billion or so—virtually every penny from regressive and economically inefficient tax sources.


Show Comments