Inslee signs climate-change bill: 'We are ... destined to defeat carbon pollution'

SEATTLE -- Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday celebrated what he calls his first big achievement since taking office, a bill that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington.

Even though the topic of climate change is fraught with politics, the bill the governor signed into law Tuesday made it through the Legislature with bipartisan support. It’s an attempt to make good on a promise state lawmakers made a few years ago to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the level they were at in 1990.

“We’re going to do good things for clean energy and the economy of the state of Washington,” Inslee said as he signed the state’s newest law.

The new law establishes a commission charged with finding ways for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “There is no other option but action,” said Inslee.

While the state has set ambitious emissions targets, until now there was no clear strategy for how to meet them.

“We are the people who are destined to defeat carbon pollution, and this bill is dedicated to that central tenant,” Inslee said.

To meet 1990 emission levels by the year 2020, the state will have to make some significant changes.  The single biggest source of greenhouse gases in Washington is transportation. Energy is right behind.

The location of Tuesday’s bill-signing was significant.

“This building is Exhibit A in why we are bold and why we are confident,” Inslee said, referring to the new Bullitt Center atop Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

“This is the greenest commercial building in the world,” said Brad Kahn, who was part of the building’s development team. Among other things, the Bullitt Center captures its own water and creates its own power.

“The solar panels on the roof will produce as much energy as the building uses over the whole year,” said Kahn.

Though Inslee said there was “no debate about the wisdom of the bill,” others expressed doubts, even those who voted for it.

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, questions the focus of getting back to 1990 levels for emissions.

“If CO2 is the only thing you are talking about, that is not always synonymous with improving our environment,” Ericksen said. “There are lots of things we could be doing to help out citizens directly, without having a massive negative impact upon job creation.”

The commission that the new law creates is set to report back to the Legislature by the end of year.