Washington state clean energy bill falters
San Francisco, 9 March (Argus) — Washington state lawmakers have shot down the last major climate policy proposal left standing in this year's legislative session.
A bill that would have required the state's electric utilities to acquire 100pc of their electricity from clean energy sources by 2045 failed to receive a vote in the state House of Representatives before the year's legislative session ended yesterday.
"We really gave it everything we had," said state senator Reuven Carlyle (D), who co-sponsored a similar measure in the Senate. "There was just a key component of it that the Republicans fought against, which was to have the practical effect of a social cost of carbon."
The social cost of carbon measures the economic harm from emitting one metric tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Republican lawmakers were concerned that the bill would allow regulators to factor that cost into the mandate, which would have put electricity sourced from coal and other fossil fuels at a disadvantage to renewables like wind and solar.
Coal accounted for 15pc of Washington's electricity mix in 2016. The bill aimed to phase-out coal-generated electricity by 2030.
Environmental groups said the bill as written would have provided a strong economic signal for the state to transition away from fossil fuels.
"We have to make sure our retiring coal plants are replaced by renewable energy, not gas," Washington Sierra Club director Jesse Piedfort said.
But electric utilities opposed the clean energy bill from the start, arguing that it would raise rates and potentially destabilize the grid.
Washington state utility Puget Sound Energy did not respond to a request for comment.
Clean energy advocates said they will try again next year.
"Despite obstruction by the utilities, there is strong momentum and public support for this policy," said Gail Gatton,
executive director of conservation group Audubon's Washington state chapter.
Time may be on bill proponents' side in 2019. Like Oregon, the Washington state legislature alternates short and long sessions year-to-year. The 2018 session ran just 60 days before ending on 8 March.
"Next year is a long session," Carlyle said. "If this had been a long session this year, I truly believe we would have got there on carbon."