A Democratic state senator is trying to force Republicans into voting on whether they agree that humans are causing climate change.
OLYMPIA — The state Senate’s Democratic minority Friday invoked a sense of déjà vu when — like the Friday before — it brought the chamber to a halt during work on a Republican bill.
This time, the issue was an Democratic amendment to a GOP energy bill that would force senators to vote on whether they agree that climate change is real and caused by humans.
The amendment, brought by Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, was attached to SB 5735, a proposal by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, to alter Initiative 937, a 2006 voter-approved clean-energy measure. I-937 mandates that utilities buy some of their power from renewable sources other than hydroelectricity.
“The legislature finds that climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to climate change,” reads the beginning of Habib’s amendment.
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“Given everything that’s been going on globally, really, to acknowledge the real concrete threat of climate change, it would be a little odd to spend the entire day doing energy bills without that being acknowledged,” Habib said Friday afternoon.
Before withdrawing Ericksen’s bill from the floor and adjourning for the day, the GOP-controlled Senate asked Lt. Gov. Brad Owen to rule whether the amendment is appropriately related to the bill. Ericksen said he thinks Owen, who presides over the Senate, will make such a decision when the Senate reconvenes Monday.
The amendment isn’t appropriate because, according to Ericksen, carbon reduction isn’t the main goal of the legislation. He described the bill — titled “Providing incentives for carbon reduction investments” — as being “geared toward clean-energy investments.”
He described Habib’s amendment as “playing politics with a good policy bill.”
SB 5735 would modify I-937’s provisions for meeting clean-energy targets with wind and solar energy, in addition to hydroelectricity. Some utilities have complained that the initiative’s current language forces them to buy expensive wind power or offset credits that either aren’t needed or send money out of the state.
Ericksen’s proposal would provide incentives for electric utilities to invest in projects that reduce carbon, such as installing electric-vehicle chargers or helping to modify state ferries to run on natural gas rather than diesel.
It wasn’t the first time the Democratic minority went looking for a way to champion its own issues in the GOP-controlled chamber. On Feb. 27, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, stalled debate over the now-passed transportation package by questioning whether it should be subject to a rule enacted by Republicans to require a two-thirds majority vote for tax increases.
And earlier this week, Senate Democrats tried a parliamentary maneuver to bring SB 5668, The Washington Voting Rights Act, to the floor. The attempt failed along a party-line vote.
Habib’s amendment is the latest barb in a sharp debate between the parties as Democrats try to make laws attempting to reduce the human impact of climate change. Republicans have pushed back on Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed carbon-polluter tax and steps he wants to take toward establishing low-carbon fuel standards.
Discussing his amendment, Habib cited language Republicans inserted into the transportation package in an effort to deter the governor from imposing low-carbon fuel standards.
If that type of language is considered in a policy bill, Habib said, his amendment to Ericksen’s bill should be, too.
As for the vote itself, “my hope is that it wouldn’t be controversial,” Habib said.