Sunday, July 21, 2024

Climate Commitment Act needs accountability, not scare tactics


Washington state’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) was passed in 2021 with the goal of reducing and phasing out carbon emissions. 

Unfortunately, there have been several problems with its passage. With that, more than 465,000 Washington citizens signed Initiative 2117 that would repeal the CCA and its cap-and-trade system. 

With the initiative verified and certified, it was forwarded to the Legislature for consideration. The majority party in Olympia has indicated they do not plan on taking any action on I-2117. If not, the people will get to weigh in when it is on the general election ballot in November. 

However, the scare tactics being used in Olympia associated with I-2117 have resulted in false information being circulated about the CCA monies and how they relate to the transportation budget. 

Some are stating that if I-2117 is repealed, CCA money for transportation projects would go away. This is not accurate. The CCA funding does not go toward roads, bridges, and ferries. You already pay for these projects through the state’s gas tax. It is imperative our citizens are aware of these intimidating and deceptive tactics. A repeal would not impact critical infrastructure. 

That is not the only concern with the CCA. The cap-and-trade program was enacted with the understanding the agricultural industry would be exempt from the increased costs created by the carbon emissions market. However, the way the money is collected with its implementation, the responsibility is resting with the farm-fuel users to pursue a refund. If the CCA is repealed, there is no provision for farmers to be refunded the amount they paid unnecessarily for the past year. There could be $30 million in the final operating budget to reimburse farmers, but some estimates show that number should be in the $150 million to $200 million range. The agricultural industry would be getting a small fraction of what it is owed.

The cap-and-trade program, or carbon credit fee, is supposed to address climate change by requiring polluters to pay for and steadily reduce their carbon pollution. Yet, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington was one of only four states that saw CO2 emissions increase in 2023 from power generation. 

The citizens of Washington should be able to observe the changes that have been made to climate policy and understand our return on investment. That is not happening.

Finally, our state has an affordability crisis. The regressive carbon credit fee has directly increased the cost of gas, food, energy, and indirectly increased the cost of other goods and services in Washington. Road users are paying about 50 cents more at the fuel pump since the CCA went into effect. 

The CCA certainly has not materialized as proponents expected. This includes the governor who said, “This is going to have a minimal impact, if any. Pennies. We are talking about pennies” at the pump.

We all care about the environment, but there clearly needs to be transparency with the actual costs on families, farmers, and all Washingtonians. It is also important you know that no matter what happens with I-2117, the road projects so critical to our strained transportation system are not in jeopardy. 

Our state agencies and elected officials must be honest with the taxpayers on I-2117 and the CCA. The government is entrusted to spend taxpayer dollars in a responsible manner. After all, our state government can only spend what the taxpayers are providing. 

Rep. Keith Goehner is the ranking Republican on the House Local Government Committee and serves on the Environment and Energy, and Transportation committees. Rep. Mike Steele is the Deputy Minority Leader and serves on the House Capital Budget and Education committees.


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