Rep. Dan Kristiansen: Who is representing small business on the governor’s new Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force?
We all care about the environment. When we drink our water, we want to be sure it is clean. When we go for a walk, we want to be sure the air we breathe is pure.
Our state has some of the strongest environmental laws on the books. As a result, Washington only produces 3/10ths of 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally and ranks second lowest in per capita emissions among seven Western states.
As business-minded people, we also care about the economy. We care about small businesses, their employees and the impact government regulations have on job growth.
It is only natural that we also care about the public policy intersection of the environment and economy. When we make public policy decisions on the environment, we want to make sure they don't adversely affect the economy. And we expect employers to be good stewards of the environment and to follow the rules.
When Republicans and Democrats come to the table – and stay at the table – balanced environmental legislation can pass in our citizen Legislature. For example, state lawmakers passed a bipartisan measure this year that will help keep our state waterways clean by addressing the problem of derelict vessels. Last year, the Legislature passed a landmark agreement on toxic-cleanup reform and established the Environmental Legacy Stewardship Account. This legislation will cleanup hundreds of contaminated sites in our state, resulting in new business and development opportunities in previously unusable areas.
Gov. Jay Inslee has made the environment his number one issue. He is part of a Showtime series on the environment, which includes Hollywood movie stars, called, “Years of Living Dangerously.”
Via executive order, the governor recently established a hand-picked Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force that will consider some very controversial proposals – including a low-carbon fuel standard program that could add an extra dollar to the price of a gallon of gas in our state. A similar program created in California is now mired in supply and legal problems.
The task force will also consider: carbon emissions; coal-fired electricity imported from other states; clean technology; energy efficiency; state government operations improvements; and carbon pollution limits. To learn more, please visit this website: http://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/climate/cert.aspx.
Many people are concerned the task force will recommend proposals that could increase the price of gas, raise electricity bills, hurt small businesses and make housing less affordable for families.
If you look at the makeup of this task force, you will see that – unfortunately – small business is not represented. A heavy load will also be placed on the Washington State Department of Transportation – an agency that is struggling on projects like the Seattle Tunnel and 520 Bridge replacement, which have eroded the public's confidence in state government.
You might be wondering what happened to the bipartisan Climate Legislative Executive Workgroup (CLEW) that was established just last year. This group looked at various new policies and the impact they would have on the economy and families. This was an important process because it began to peel back the layers of policies to reveal their true costs. And we know that many of these costs would be passed along to individuals, families and employers.
Unfortunately, the governor – despite being a part of the CLEW process – decided to abandon it. He created a new task force that, aside from having no small business representation, does not include state lawmakers – the very people who will be responsible to passing environmental legislation.
We all want a clean environment for years to come. But how we go about it is critically important. As business leaders, I encourage you to stay tuned to this issue. There is no question that the proposals considered could have a significant impact on families, small businesses and our economy. The task force's first meeting will be on June 24. Final recommendations to the governor are expected by Nov. 21.
Rep. Dan Kristiansen, 39th Legislative District