We all know the federal government is hamstrung by partisan gridlock.  Where once lawmakers recognized that passing legislation required that both parties end up being able to claim success, that no one got everything they wanted, and that progress was never perfect, today there seem to be new rules holding forth:  “I will only ‘compromise’ with you if I get everything I wanted, and I get all the credit.”  “If you have to eat some crow, that makes me look better.”  “I don’t need your help enough to be willing to let you take the credit for what we accomplish.”

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On April 29, 2014, Governor Inslee signed Executive Order 14-04, titled “Washington Carbon Reduction and Clean Energy Action.” This order supersedes two orders by Washington’s prior governor (EO 07-02 and EO 09-05) and will serve as the framework for Governor Inslee’s actions on climate change. EO 14-04 is a dense nine pages long, and was informed by the work of the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup, the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, and other academic and policy information sources. Governor Inslee is taking ten measures to address the issues raised by current research into climate change. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Establishing a Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce: Convening for the first time on the day EO 14-04 was signed, this taskforce is being created to provide recommendations on the design and implementation of carbon emission limits and market mechanisms for Washington. The target for the taskforce’s work is legislation to be introduced by the Governor in the next legislative session. Governor Inslee has put some parameters around the carbon emissions reduction program he wishes to see in Washington, including (1) a cap on pollution emissions, with binding requirements to meet statutory emission limits; and (2) inclusion of market mechanisms needed to meet emission limits in the “most effective and efficient manner possible.”

2.  Coal-Fired Electricity: Continuing the trend that started with the phase-out of the TransAlta’s coal-fired power plant in Centralia, the Governor stated a goal of reduction and then elimination of electric power produced with coal. Besides the TransAlta plant, Washington receives some power from the Colstrip facility in Montana, and Governor Inslee is authorizing the Legislative Affairs and Policy Office to negotiate with utilities on the reduction of use of electricity generated from coal.

3.  Clean Transportation: The Governor sets a number of goals regarding the Washington Department of Transportation, including developing an action plan to advance electric vehicle use, programs related to transportation efficiency (including updating comprehensive plans to maximize transportation efficiency); and identifying increased investment opportunities in multimodal transportation. Nested in this action item is the a study on a low carbon fuel standard, contained in the Governor’s directive to the Office of Financial Management to perform a study on the “technical feasibility, costs and benefits, and job implications of requiring the use of cleaner transportation fuels through standards that reduce carbon intensity of these fuels over time.”

4.  Clean Technology: The Governor sets a number of goals related to clean technology. These include asking the Washington State Energy Program to work with the Utilities and Transportation Commission, the Department of Commerce and other state agencies to review statutes, rules, policies, and incentives for solar energy in Washington.

5.  Energy Efficiency: The Governor is asking the Department of Commerce to work with the Washington State University Energy Program, the State Building Code and other agencies to “develop, and implement to the extent possible and consistent with state and federal law, a new statewide program to significantly improve the energy performance” of both public and private buildings. This sounds like a lofty goal, but arguably is the area where Washington as a state can achieve the most gains from an energy consumption perspective. Reading the Governor’s goals made me think of Denis Haye’s comments on Earth Day with respect to shifting environmental policies, and the increased focus on energy efficiency in building codes.

The Governor also set goals in terms of state government operations, agency coordination, review of greenhouse gas emission limits, and coordination with legislative committees and members.


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