Washington state going green with fleet of clean-energy laws

(CN) – Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, a presidential hopeful running on an almost exclusively climate-focused platform, signed a suite of clean energy bills into law Tuesday.

Inslee signed bills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from hydrofluorocarbons, increase the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances and expand the state’s use of electric cars, buses and ferries.

But the jewel in the crown is Inslee’s signature clean energy bill, which requires the state to be coal-free by 2025, carbon-neutral by 2030 and use 100% clean energy by 2045 – the target set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

It’s one of a handful of similar laws passed recently or being debated in California, Maryland, New Mexico and Illinois.

Addressing a crowd before Rainier Vista, a former public housing facility now home to 950 units of mixed income housing, Inslee underscored one of his campaign’s common themes: that a strong economy, and the jobs that go with it, are integral to the advancement of an ambitious agenda to beat back climate change.

“We know we need to take action,” Inslee said. “And here’s what action looks like. Action looks like a 100% clean energy bill. Action is electrifying our transportation grid so we don’t have diesel coming out of our tailpipes. And while we are doing that, we are going to be creating jobs all over the state. Because we know a secret here in the state of Washington: wind turbines don’t cause cancer, they cause jobs. Washington state is open for business to put people to work in clean energy. Starting today.”

The clean energy law allows some nonrenewable resources to contribute to the state’s power grid. By 2030, Washington state must get 80% of its power from “nonemitting electric generation and electricity from renewable resources,” meaning that nuclear and natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration technology are still on the table. The other 20% can be offset through a carbon tax of $100 per ton, renewable energy credits or the funding of energy transformation projects.

Critics say rules capping the costs of the transition for utility companies may slow the implementation of the changes. The bill stipulates the cost of compliance can’t increase by more than 2% each year.

Inslee says he would base his climate plan for the nation on the one he has enacted in Washington state. But his recent wins come after five years as governor marked by rising emissions and questionable tax breaks for big corporations.

Beaming in the bright sun, Inslee said the bills he signed Tuesday will put the Evergreen State at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

“What a beautiful day,” Inslee said. “Isn’t it going to be a great day when we’re turning all these photons into electricity for the state of Washington?”