Inslee's climate change bill passes Legislature

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A measure championed by Gov. Jay Inslee to study the best practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions passed the state House on Monday and heads next to the governor's desk.

Under the measure, an outside consultant would review both Washington state's ongoing efforts to cut carbon emissions and similar endeavors elsewhere. It would then report back to the governor and a group of legislative leaders, who would in turn create a report to present to the full Legislature by the end of the year.

The report is meant to help the state reach its target of reducing 2020 greenhouse gas emissions levels to those of 1990.

"This bill is a collaborative, bipartisan step forward that will allow us to seize the environmental and economic opportunities of addressing climate change and preserve the legacy of stewardship we owe our children," said Inslee in a written statement lauding its passage.

Language in the original bill warning of the perils of climate change was removed in the Republican-controlled state Senate. House Democrats elected not to reintroduce that language, instead sending the bill to the governor.

"I liked the original language better, but I think it's more important to have bipartisan engagement," said Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, the bill's House sponsor. "In the end we'll need bipartisan support for whatever the actions are."

House Republicans sought to amend the bill to include an exploration of the long-term viability of solar and wind energy and to study whether hydroelectric power should be counted as green energy under state rules. They pointed out that the wind and solar power industries have received government subsidies and that hydroelectric power is not a big polluter and is relatively inexpensive.

"This bill is a study bill," said Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw. "What I say to those who bring forward a study bill is to do your homework first."

The amendments failed, mostly along party lines.

Moments later, Senate Bill 5802 passed the House by a vote of 62-31, with no Democrats voting against and eight Republicans voting in favor. Democratic Rep. Chris Hurst of Enumclaw initially voted against the measure but said he had done so by mistake. He said he had filled out paperwork to formally change his vote.

In a related development, the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee is scheduled on Tuesday to hear testimony from Western Washington University professor emeritus Don Easterbrook, a geologist and climate change skeptic. He is expected to question the language struck from the bill dealing with the human role in climate change, and whether its effects will be as dramatic as the vast majority of scientists studying the issue expect them to be.

"Earlier in the session, the governor gave his side of the issue and now we'll hear from an expert with a different viewpoint," said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Whatcom County, alluding to Inslee's earlier testimony before the same committee.

Upthegrove said that he is not opposed to Easterbrook sharing his views but said he hopes they are not interpreted as representing a significant voice within the scientific community.

"The one concern I have is that it could give a false impression because there is such tremendous scientific consensus" that climate change is real and that humans are playing a central role in it, Upthegrove said.