Politics Rep. Maralyn Chase Pushes Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gases
posted by January 29 at 15:40 PMon
I talked to environmental Rep. Maralyn Chase (D-32, Shoreline, Edmonds) today, who sounds a bit like she had her mind blown by Al Gore’s movie. She reports that she rides a tricycle around the Olympia campus now to fight global warming. (I haven’t witnessed this myself yet, but others confirmed that it’s true.)
She says: “These companies are polluting our commons. People don’t realize how serious this is. They don’t understand. We are using up the resources of our grandchildren.”
As I Slogged last week, Chase has two bills—a cap and trade program (HB 1210) to mandate lower emmissions (which I’m all for) and a tax credit program for companies that mitigate their CO2 emmissions with offset projects (which I think is a dumb idea.) That’s HB 1208.
The main problems I have with the tax credit program are: There’s no mandated limit (ie, it’s voluntary); profit incentives to produce more CO2 (ie, more electricity) could easily outweigh the minimal incentive for mitigation ($1 per ton); a company could potentially get more money, the more CO2 it produced (there’d be more CO2 to mitigate)!; and finally, tax breaks sap state coffers.
I asked Chase about the irony of potentially rewarding companies for producing more CO2, and she said: “No, it will cost them more than $1 to mitigate per ton.”
Okay. But if $1 doesn’t cover the cost—where’s the incentive? Basically, if it costs about $5 to mitigate per ton, than the company would be spending $4 they wouldn’t have spent in the first place. That hardly seems like an incentive.
Chase acknowledged this and said the bill is more about calling attention to the issue.
She then told me the cap and trade bill is the real priority. That’s cool. Here’s how cap and trade works: The state mandates a limit on how much CO2 a certain industry can produce. Then the state divvies up the total and sells permits allowing companies to produce a portion of the total. For a good explanation of cap and trade, the Union of Concerned Scientists has a clear explanation that highlights why this system actually creates a stronger financial incentive than tax breaks do.
Chase says she is currently trying to make the bill even more progressive, changing the mandated benchmarks from hitting 1990 CO2 levels by 2020 to an 80 percent decrease from today’s levels—a much more ambitious goal.
Boths bills are in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this Wednesday.
Chase also told me that she believes Governor Gregoire may be working on cap and trade legislation. (Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski unveiled cap and trade plans last week.) I called the governor’s office to get a beat on any legislation that Gregoire was developing. Still waiting to hear back.