SEATTLE (AP) - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday proposed an ambitious cap-and-trade program to require the state's largest industrial polluters to pay for every ton of carbon they release.
The proposal was part of a broader package that the Democrat said would help the state meet a 2008 mandate to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. It sets an overall limit on heat-trapping gases similar to a program that California launched nearly three years ago.
"It is primarily and foremost an issue of health for our children and our grandchildren," said Inslee, who was flanked by Democratic lawmakers and other supporters at a news conference at REI in Seattle.
"It's not only a good idea, it's the law," he added.
Inslee said the program will cover about 85 percent of all the state's carbon emissions.
The proposal still needs to be approved by the Legislature, and is certain to face resistance. Republicans will have outright control of the Senate after picking up seats in the November election.
Inslee, who has made tackling climate change a key issue since taking office two years ago, said the plan would raise nearly $1 billion in its first year, which would begin in July 2016.
Money raised by selling allowance to pollute would pay for transportation projects, education-funding requirements imposed by the state Supreme Court, and assist low-income families and industries that are most affected by higher energy costs.
Inslee dangled the money as one way to bring along lawmakers in Olympia. Legislators in both parties will have to come to grips with stark realities, as they confront a projected budget gap of more than $2 billion during the next two-year period.
"They may conclude it's better to tax pollution than voters, that it's better to tax polluters than drivers," Inslee said.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who chairs the Senate environment committee, said the governor's plan "would make it more expensive to take a family vacation, drive your kids to soccer practice and heat your home."
Ericksen called it "a general fund tax increase" that will hurt working families and businesses, and said he would work to come up with clean energy solutions that aren't so costly.
Under cap-and-trade, the state would set an overall cap on carbon emissions and require the state's largest polluters to pay for each metric ton of pollution emitted. The price would be set at an auction. Polluters that cut emissions below the cap can sell leftover permits to others who pollute more.
The proposal will apply to about 130 large facilities, including refineries, power plants and steel mills, or those that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.
The overall cap on greenhouse gases would decrease over time, so fewer permits are issued, increasing their value on the market.
Companies may decide to pay for every metric ton they permit, or find that there's more financial incentive for them to cut their pollution by becoming more energy efficient or finding newer technologies to reduce pollution.
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