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Senate Committee hears greenhouse gas emission legislation

The Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee held a public hearing Tuesday for Senate Bill 6272, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels deemed below dangerous amounts according to the latest climate science. 

The reductions mandated by SB 6272 are significantly more stringent than what is currently required by state law. Currently, state law requires a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by this year, a reduction of  25 percent of 1990 levels by 2035 and a reduction of 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. 

The bill would add new interim milestones for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 2030 and 2040, would require a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 50 percent of 1990 levels to 95 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, amends greenhouse gas reductions targets for state agencies and requires state government agencies to find opportunities to maximize carbon sequestration in cost-effective ways.  

“I just want to emphasize that faster, deeper emission reductions in reaching carbon neutral are not feel-good goals,” said Stu Clark, air quality program manager at the Washington Department of Ecology. “They’re not some buzzwords. This is truly what the science says is necessary if we’re going to eliminate the most damaging effects of climate change to our economy, our environment and our people.”

Those who testified Tuesday spoke, by and large, in favor of the bill. 

“It seems obvious that to reduce the emissions, there need to be targets or limits,” said Phyllis Farrell, of the League of Women Voters. “These limits should be established using the best and most recent climate science.”

Although the bill is ambitious in nature in that it requires such a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, some in support of the bill had concerns about how SB 6272 addresses what defines a net zero carbon target. 

“I think the bill should either be simplified so the agency has flexibility to develop a measurement verification system or some detail should be added so it’s very specific as to what net zero carbon means,” said Greg Rock, who advocated for the bill on behalf of Climate Washington. 

Others voiced concern that the bill doesn’t fully address the reduction of all overall emissions, something policy experts found worth noting during the public hearing Tuesday. 

“It would be useful, I think, to clarify the scope of emissions subject to the target so that it includes anthropogenic emissions that are able to be regulated by the state,” said John Rocklin, a climate change policy official who testified Tuesday. “So it would exclude naturally-occurring emissions or emission that might have federal pre-emption like aviation and maritime fuels. That would ensure the targets are mathematically achievable.”

A representative of the Association of Washington Business came out in opposition to the bill, flagging technical details in the bill that caused concern and requesting a more technologically-oriented solution to reducing carbon.

“We would prefer a move towards a more technology-neutral option, as opposed to just focusing on natural and working lands,” said Peter Godlewski, Government Relations Director, Environmental Policy at the Association of Washington Business. “We feel this would allow the use of technology and innovation to drive future possibilities in that field.”

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