OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday unveiled a new climate-change package that includes a renewed push for a clean fuels standard and capping some greenhouse-gas emissions.

Other proposals would further electrify Washington’s ferry fleet and reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, according to Inslee, and bring equity into environmental policy.

Inslee’s plan comes as part of his new two-year budget proposal, and as lawmakers prepare to convene in January for the 2021 legislative session.

In a news conference, the governor framed his plan as a way to create new jobs amid the economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

“This plan will help create jobs, reduce pollution, increase investment in critical infrastructure and help families through these troubled times,” said the governor.

Gov. Jay Inslee held a press conference today to announce his climate policy proposals as part of his 2021-2023 budget proposal.
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The plan comes as lawmakers and Inslee prepare to confront a tax-revenue shortfall due to the economic downturn as they write a new two-year operating budget.

But Inslee — who has focused much of his time in office, as well as his unsuccessful bid for president, on climate change — has vowed to keep pushing the issue forward.

Taken together, the proposals announced Tuesday are a “roll-up-your-sleeves, mud-on-your-boots” approach to meaningfully cutting carbon, said Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle.

“They represent the work plan to actually achieve Paris-accord level reductions in carbon in Washington state,” said Carlyle. The senator is set to sponsor the legislation that would cap carbon emissions and fund clean-energy jobs, climate-resilience projects and environmental justice.

One of the largest pieces of the proposal is a low-carbon fuel standard for transportation fuel, which Inslee has pushed hard for in recent years. That legislation aims to reduce the carbon content in transportation fuels in the coming years.

While House Democrats passed a version of the low-carbon fuels legislation in 2019 and 2020, the proposal stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate. There, a handful of Democrats have opposed it — and with few changes in this year’s legislative elections, that dynamic may be no different.

This year’s proposal calls for a 10% reduction in the amount of carbon in fuels by 2028, and a 20% reduction by 2035.

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Opponents to such legislation have pointed to the potential price tag for consumers. One projection by the California Air Resources Board put that state’s added cost for gas at between 18.3 and 45.8 cents per gallon to get a 20% reduction in carbon intensity.

House GOP Minority Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox of Yelm noted the low-carbon fuel standard would raise gas prices for commuters around the state.

With legislation like that, Wilcox said, “So often the people that can least afford it are paying the biggest price.”

But supporters of low-carbon fuels say the move is necessary to reduce greenhouse gases. And in last year’s debate, they noted the average retail price of gasoline in California last year was lower than it was nine years ago, when that’s state’s low-carbon standard began to take effect.

Inslee’s plan would invest $318 million over four years to fund the second conversion of a state ferry from diesel to electric, as well as the construction a new hybrid electric ferry.

Among other things, the proposal devotes more funding to making sure new buildings use clean energy for heating water and spaces, and to retrofit older buildings to make them more efficient.

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And the governor proposes a new climate-related investment account in the budget. Spending from that account would undergo analysis to make sure those funds are use to eliminate environmental harm, as well as health and economic disparities, for vulnerable communities.

The proposal would put in law needed provisions for environmental and racial justice, said Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, during the news conference.

“It is the way that we achieve our climate goals and make them last and make them persistent,” she said. “And allow our youth and our next generation to be able to benefit and take ownership and stewardship of this new way and this new economy.”