SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday proposed an ambitious package of legislation aimed at tackling climate change, including eliminating fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal from the state's electricity supply by 2045.
Eyeing a 2020 White House bid and undeterred by repeated setbacks in getting major climate legislation passed in his state, the Democratic governor once again made reducing greenhouse gas emissions central to his agenda. He has said he wants to elevate climate change as a front-burner issue in the next presidential election.
Last month, voters in the progressive state rejected by a 56-44 percent margin a second attempt on the ballot to put a price on carbon pollution. Initiative 1631 was closely watched nationwide as a test for whether states could pass a carbon tax or fee. The oil industry spent $30 million to defeat the measure in the state's costliest initiative campaign fight.
Inslee, who has been a vocal critic of Trump administration climate policies, said people in the state want action on climate and want their elected leaders to step up to prevent further harm to forests, air and communities.
There was no carbon tax or fee included in the governor's slate of proposed legislation and budget provisions that he said would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035.
The centerpiece of that effort is a requirement that utilities eliminate the use of fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas from electricity sources by 2045. Another major effort would implement a clean fuel standard - similar to a program in California - that requires fuel producers and importers to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation fuels.
In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation putting his state on the path toward all clean energy electricity sources by 2045. Hawaii also has similar legislation.
Inslee has included $268 million in his proposed two-year budget to pay for his clean energy efforts. His proposals are likely to face stiff opposition from Republicans.
The governor has tried repeatedly since taking office in 2013 to persuade state lawmakers to pass carbon pricing programs and other measures. His carbon tax bill earlier this year failed to win approval even though Democrats enjoyed a narrow legislative majority.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee, said Monday the governor should listen to residents who have twice rejected "massive tax increases" at the ballot.
"The impacts on the economy could be dire," said Ericksen, who worried about higher energy costs and impacts on businesses. "I don't think he should try to use the massive tax increase as a springboard for his attempt to run for president."
A new federal report unveiled last month warned that natural disasters are worsening in the U.S. because of global warming. A chapter of the National Climate Assessment report focused on the Northwest warned that climate change is already affecting the region, which is projected to continue to warm, exacerbating loss of mountain snowpack and increasing the risk of wildfires and insect infestations.
Washington, which relies heavily on hydroelectric power, currently generates 75 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources. Inslee's proposal would require utilities in the state to eliminate coal as an energy source by 2025. The state's only coal-fired power plant, owned by TransAlta, is already slated to stop burning coal entirely by 2025. But utilities would also be required to phase out the electricity they get from coal-fired power plants in Montana and other states.
Republican leaders were so opposed to the idea of a low-carbon fuel standard several years ago that they inserted a so-called "poison pill" into a major transportation package in 2015. That provision threatened to transfer money from bike paths and transit to other projects if any state agency adopted a low carbon fuel standard before 2023.
Inslee's proposal would amend the law to remove that poison pill. Fuel providers would be required to reduce the total carbon intensity of fuels by 10 percent by 2028 and by 20 percent by 2030.
Supporters say the program will spur clean fuel technologies and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector, the largest sources of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. In California, that standard has added between three to six cents to the price of a gallon of gas, state officials said.
Inslee also wants to encourage more electric vehicles by providing tax incentives, converting two state ferries to electric vessels, building more charging stations and supporting high-speed rail along the West Coast, among other things.