The Washington State Legislature began its 60 day session this month. Public school funding challenges continue to dominate the landscape in the state, but a number of energy related bills will be considered as well. A priority bill for NEEC is HB 1278. This bill, first introduced by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon last year, would establish an enforcement mechanism for the current state requirement to benchmark energy use in commercial buildings. The bill would add a feature that requires owners to disclose that performance annually to the Department of Commerce who would in turn provide full public disclosure. The bill currently sits in the Rules Committee of the House. A couple of other bills of note include SB 6173, offered by Senator Doug Erikson, which would prohibit the state from adopting rules that regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This legislation is obviously directed at the state Department of Ecology’s efforts, as directed by Governor Inslee, to use their rulemaking authority to regulate carbon emissions from big emitters in the state. SB 6381 appears to be a placeholder bill offered as an alternative to the citizen’s petition to the legislature, commonly referred to as Carbon WA. The Carbon WA initiative secured sufficient voter signatures to place a revenue neutral carbon tax before the legislature which in turn must now either adopt the language of the initiative, pass alternative legislation, or place the initiative on the November ballot. As has been widely reported in the media, the Carbon WA effort was not supported by a number of environmental and climate organizations that have preferred a “cap and fee” approach to regulating carbon. After failing to reach a compromise with Carbon WA, discussions are still underway as to how those organizations may approach this issue going forward.
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