Archive for Energy

Carbon tax initiative has enough signatures to head to Legislature

By | December 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

An initiative that would impose a new tax on carbon emissions while also cutting the state’s sales tax appears to be headed to the Legislature in January.

Initiative 732 adds a $25-per-ton tax on fossil fuels. To offset the higher gas prices that consumers will pay, the initiative proposes cutting the state’s sales tax by 1 cent per dollar. It would also lower the business and occupation tax on manufacturing and fund tax rebates for certain low-income workers.

Supporters of the proposal say it will reduce air pollution without changing the overall amount of taxes paid by individuals. Carbon Washington, the campaign behind the initiative, announced Wednesday it has collected 330,000 signatures, surpassing the 246,000 signatures needed to send an initiative to the Legislature.

The group intends to continue collecting signatures until Dec. 30, when it will deliver the initiative to the Secretary of State’s office, according to the group’s founder, Yoram Bauman. The additional signatures allow for room for error.

If the signatures are validated, the initiative first goes to the state Legislature. It can adopt the initiative as proposed, or send the measure to the ballot for the November 2016 general election. It can also approve an alternative to the initiative, which would place both the original and the alternative on the ballot.

Categories: Election, Energy, Environment

Special session update: Budget briefings, cap-and-trade proposal forthcoming

By | May 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Budget writers met this week for two days of budget “briefings,” but have yet to resolve more than 1,000 differences between the budgets passed by the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican majority Senate, according to Democratic legislative leaders.

“Going through each section of the budget, going through where the differences are, where the decisions have to be made — that’s what is happening right now,” House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan told reporters on Thursday.

The Legislature began a 30-day special session on April 29 after adjourning regular session without a two-year operating budget in place.

House Speaker Frank Chopp said there remains “major differences” between the two budgets, highlighting a difference of $450 million more in the Democratic budget for K-12 basic education than the Republican approach.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said Democrats don’t have the money for the $450 million expenditure. “They can spend it, but they can’t pay for it,” he said at a Republican media availability.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle are pushing to get an early revenue forecast update to see if the state will collect more revenue.

Waiting for June 17, when the revenue forecast is scheduled to be released, is “just too late,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island. (more…)

Lawmakers consider extending electric vehicle tax break for cars $35,000 or less

By | April 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers considered a bill Monday that would extend the state’s sales tax break on electric vehicles — but only for cars that cost up to $35,000. Several people testified in support the tax break, but had concerns about proposed price cap.

A 2015 Nissan LEAF gets charged. (Photo by Nissan.)

A 2015 Nissan LEAF gets charged. (Photo by Nissan.)

Under House Bill 2087, car buyers would not have pay thousands of dollars in sales tax on an electric vehicle that can travel at least 30 miles on battery alone and is under the proposed $35,000 price cap.

That would apply to cars such as the Nissan Leaf, the Chevrolet Spark and the electric Ford Focus.

J.J. McCoy of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association says the current tax incentives are a big reason why many recent purchasers have gone electric.

“A recent study shows about 63 percent of the market share in Washington state is due to the sales tax exemption,” he said. Half the market could disappear if the sales tax exemption were left to expire, he said.

Although he supports the bill, he has concerns about the $35,000 price cap excluding more expensive electric cars, one of which has a major part made in the state.

“The BMW i3 which uses the carbon fiber made here in Moses Lake would not apply,” he said.

Mike Ennis of the Association of Washington Business also echoed those concerns about the price cap.

“We believe that you would be hurting the manufacturers who are leading in EV innovations. Manufacturers like GM, Tesla and BMW provide models that would fall on the other side of the cap,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the bill, Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, says the bill writers intentionally targeted the lower-priced cars.

“The tax break doesn’t determine whether they will buy a Tesla or not. But it does make a difference for someone who would buy an ordinary sedan to get them from a gas-powered to an electric vehicle. We think this is the magic price point,” he said, adding that the bill writers would be willing to consider a price a few thousand higher.

The bill also sets annual registration fees for electric vehicles at $150 dollars a year, some of which would help build more charging stations throughout the state.

Orcutt says that will help build the industry.

“Until there are more electric vehicles out there you’re not going to have enough charging stations. Until you get more charging stations out there, people are going to be reluctant to buy the EVs,” he said.

Orcutt said it also would not be a bad thing if the dealerships felt compelled to drop prices on certain models in order to qualify for the tax break.

“We’re trying to make these more affordable to the general public, to the middle class. If it creates a downward price pressure, to me that’s a good thing,” he said.

The committee took no action on Monday. The current sales tax break on electric vehicles is set to end in July.

Categories: Energy, Environment

Nuclear energy education program proposed for students in grades 8-12

By | March 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

A Republican legislator is backing a plan that would teach middle and high school students about nuclear power, with the goal of funneling more young people into high-paying nuclear energy jobs.

Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, told the House Technology Committee on Wednesday the nuclear industry is struggling to fill jobs that pay an average salary of $85,000 a year.

“We really need to educate kids that this is a different type of nuclear. It’s not your father’s nuclear anymore. It’s next generation and it’s a lot more safe,” Brown said.

But critics of the measure say schools shouldn’t single out a source of energy above others without also discussing potential negative health impacts.

Columbia Generating Station

Columbia Generating Station

Senate Bill 5093 creates a nuclear energy education program for students in 8th through 12th grade, administered by the Washington State University Energy Program. It would partner with the American Nuclear Society, which provides classroom materials and training for teachers.

Representatives from Physicians for Social Responsibility oppose the bill, citing health concerns.

“I think there are many young people who are very concerned about having a sustainable energy future that is not toxic to themselves and their children,” said Mary Hanson, who represents the Washington chapter of the group.

Chuck Johnson, speaking on behalf of the Oregon chapter, said he was concerned about the role of the American Nuclear Society in shaping the educational material. “Having them as a gatekeeper is very problematic,” he said.

If the bill passes, Johnson suggested adding a public health educator who could discuss health concerns associated with nuclear power.

Energy Northwest, which operates the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant, supports the effort and says some of its 1,000 employees could play a role as “nuclear ambassadors” to the program.

Jim Gaston of Energy Northwest said the company could help “bring knowledge to the kids and understanding of the well paying jobs in nuclear technology.”

Categories: Energy

Senate, House Democratic leaders respond to MCC energy proposal

By | February 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

State Democratic leaders on Thursday responded to Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen‘s new proposal to address climate change and reduce statewide carbon emissions.

Ericksen and Senate Majority Coalition members on Wednesday introduced an energy plan they say focuses on incentives over penalties. Democratic Sen. Maralyn Chase was also part of the rollout and spoke in support of the proposal, which allows utilities to meet green energy targets through alternative measures, such as installing electric car chargers.

Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson said the mostly-Republican proposal is a start. “I’m pleased as far as climate change that we are actually hearing Republicans say there may be human impacts that are affecting climate change,” Nelson said. “That’s a major step forward.”

Over in the state House, Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan said his caucus plans to push Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon reduction proposal through an environment committee next week. Inslee’s plan would set a cap on statewide emissions and require the state’s top 130 polluters to buy allowances above a certain limit. House Bill 1314, the governor’s proposal, is scheduled for a committee vote on Tuesday.

Ericksen, who chairs the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee, has said he will give Inslee’s plan a hearing in his committee if it passes off the House floor.

Although the MCC has not said whether its proposal is meant as an alternative to Inslee’s plan, Ericksen said in a statement that in the Senate “we’re about carrots, not sticks.” Instead of charging pollutors, the MCC plan would give power companies new ways to comply with voter-approved Initiative 937, which in 2006 required utilities to boost energy obtained from renewable resources.

Public utilities would be able to count as part of the initiative converting motor fleets and ferries to liquefied natural gas and creating more electric vehicle charging stations. Other bill includes tax incentives for expanding nuclear power with small modular reactors.

Senate Bill 5735 was heard Thursday in the committee, but has not been scheduled for a vote.

Senate bills offer incentives, alternatives to clean energy requirements

By | February 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, announced bills that offer incentives for energy conservation efforts.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, announced plans on Wednesday to introduce a series of bills that create incentives for energy conservation.

The central bill in the plan offers alternatives to a voter-approved initiative requiring public utilities to boost the amount of energy obtained from renewable resources. Public utilities meet the requirements put in place by Initiative 937 by purchasing power from solar and wind sources. By 2020, 15 percent of energy must be purchased from these sources, according to the initiative.

Senate Bill 5735 would allow utilities to meet the targets through alternative measures, including installing electric vehicle chargers, paying for the conversion of ferries to liquefied natural gas and purchasing renewable energy credits from others.

The plan also includes other bills: (SB 5325) offering tax incentives for the creation of small modular nuclear reactors; (SB 5426) calling for bids for the conversion of ferries from diesel to liquefied natural gas; and (SB 5114) creating tax incentives for the purchases of alternative-fuel vehicles in commercial fleets.

Ericksen announced the plan at a press conference that featured senators Curtis King, R-Yakima; Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick; Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee; Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and Maralyn Chase, D- Shoreline.

Ericksen said the plan’s main goal was to spur job creation, with reducing carbon emissions as an additional benefit. He said it was not a response to Gov. Jay Inslee‘s plan for carbon reductions, which was heard in the House last week.

“Is this a climate plan? No,” Ericksen said. “This is an energy plan for Washington state.”

Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, speaks at a press conference on proposed energy conservation plans.

However, Chase disagreed, saying she backed the plan because of the energy-saving incentives it puts on the table.

“The cheapest form of energy is conservation,” she said.

Chase also said the introduction of the bills are an opening to talk about all carbon reduction options, including cap and trade and incentives for helping consumers save energy.

“It also helps out low-income people and older people who are aging in place,” she said. “It allows utilities to do things like repairing their homes and putting insulation in.”

Ericksen said that the plan allows utilities to abide by the original I-937 mandates, and that the plan offers solutions to get at energy conservation.

“With the plan we’re putting forward…  is how we deliver on that sooner, and not wait for a low-carbon fuel standard rule to get that done,” he said.

Senate Bill 5735 will be heard at the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment & Telecommunications on Thursday. (more…)

Community struggling with PTSD, economic recovery in the wake of Oso mudslide

By | November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Eight months after the deadly Oso mudslide, people in the community continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are struggling to move forward, local officials told lawmakers Thursday.

There is also a “tenseness” because of the uncertainty of what will happen to the Stillaguamish River during the flooding season, said Arlington mayor Barbara Tolbert at a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

“We have very resilient people in the community,” said Tolbert, who said the region’s next challenge is recovering economically from the disaster. A federally-funded economic review is underway, and the report should be completed early next year, she said.

The Oso mudslide on March 22 killed 43 people, burying dozens of homes and part of State Route 530. The road reopened to two-way traffic in September.

The committee also heard testimony from people involved in the recovery effort at the mudslide. Retired forest service member Peter Selvig listed several problems he encountered in the days after the mudslide as he helped organize efforts on the Darrington side of the disaster.

He said he was twice denied flood lights, and he also received pushback on the number of portable toilets and body bags he ordered. Communications were focused on the Arlington side of the disaster, he said, leaving the Darrington side with minimal services.

“These are some of the confusions that just rip your gut apart thinking that this was happening and there was nobody there to respond,” Selvig told the committee.

Watch the hearing below:

Bill would preserve floating homes

By | February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Existing floating homes would be allowed to stay on Lake Union in Seattle and other shorelines, under a bill that passed in the Senate and was heard in a House committee Friday.

The move would be welcome by residents of floating homes, such as John Chaney, of the Lake Union Liveaboard Association, who says that houses like his do not deserve their reputation among regulators.

“We’re no longer the ‘shanty shacks’ that dump sewage and garbage into our state’s waters,” he said.

Photo by Dan Ramirez,

Floating homes differ from houseboats; houseboats have motors and are designed for navigation and floating homes are house structures built on a barge or a similar floating structure.

Under SB 6540 sponsored by Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), local governments would have to grandfather in floating on-water residences in local shoreline regulations if the homes were established lawfully by July 1, 2014.

However, Susan Neff, who lives in a houseboat on Lake Union, opposed the bill, saying that owners of floating homes are taking up shoreline space that can no longer be used by other boaters.

“I view this as an aquatic land grab,” she said. “The space is limited. We’re not building new marinas.”

She also feels there is not enough regulation on how floating homes are built.

But Barbara Ingram, who said her floating home on Lake Union is her main investment, said that shoreline regulations would force her at age 76 to buy a home or pay rent.

“Frankly, I can’t manage that,” she said.

The bill is one of several this session concerning on-water dwellings.

TVW webcast the hearing.

Senate approves study on nuclear power plants

By | February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Legislators in the Senate passed a bill that would create a task force to study nuclear power. The task force would look into using nuclear power to replace fossil fuels in Washington state.

Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) supported SB 5991 and said Washington is missing out on money the federal government has been investing in nuclear power in other states.

The Columbia Generating Station in Richland is the state’s only commercial nuclear power plant.

“There’s great opportunities and I think this task force will pave the way for new things happening in Washington state that provide low-cost, no-carbon, carbon-free power for years to come,” he said.

Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) said nuclear disasters in New Jersey, Chernobyl and Fukushima should serve as a warning.

“I was a 12-year-old girl in New Jersey when Three Mile Island had its leak, had its accident,” she said. “I would never put my children through that kind of fear.”

She said studying nuclear power is the wrong direction for Washington.

“Let’s not talk about expanding smaller nuclear packages throughout our state and putting more communities at risk.”

According to the bill the task force must consist of eight members that serve in the House and Senate committees that are concerned with energy issues. The members would be equally represented from the caucuses.

However, Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) says the U.S. Navy has been operating smaller nuclear reactors throughout the country, including at the naval bases near Bremerton.

“This can and is done in a safe and thoughtful manner. We shouldn’t just say no because it says nuclear, and I think this is a good approach.”

Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-Shoreline) said a study would help lawmakers make policy decisions based on facts.

“I am not afraid of a study. I believe a study a scientific study would give us both the pros and the cons of this proposal,” she said. “These smaller plants, do I know that they’re good? Do I know that they’re bad? No. I want to take a look at the study.”

Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) said his concern was over the bill’s language.

“I have a problem with the definitive statement by the legislature in the intent section that this is a safe industry,” he said. “We’ll be putting our imprimatur on it.”

Senate Bill 5991 passed 34-15. It would have to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the governor before becoming law.

Categories: Energy, Environment

Inslee skeptical of proposed changes to renewable energy policy

By | February 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Wind turbines near the Blue Mountains in southeast Washington. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

The debate over renewable energy is again creating friction among lawmakers in Olympia as a number of GOP-backed bills take aim at I-937, the 2006 initiative that requires utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity with renewable sources by 2020.

Some of the bills would allow utilities to count hydroelectric power as a “renewable” source, instead of wind and solar. Other bills would narrow requirements that utilities face under the Energy Independence Act.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who has made green energy a keystone of his legislative agenda, said the push to amend I-937 is taking a step in the wrong direction. In the coming weeks, he plans to roll out new measures aimed at increasing new clean energy.

“To go backwards would be a real mistake,” Inlsee said last week. “So I’m hopeful people will take the rear view mirror off and start driving forward on renewable energy.”

Republicans leaders say some of the requirements outlined in I-937 don’t add up, eventually hurting utilities and their customers.

“Our approach is that the hydro is as clean and green as anything else and moving those standards higher just raises costs on citizens. We feel like hydro should be part of the portfolio without raising standards,” Sen. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) said.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis) said Washington is already one of the leaders in renewable energy, and is the envy of other states.

“To create an artificial economy on top of our green power to satisfy special interest doesn’t really work for me,” he said.

Hydro currently accounts for about 87 percent of Washington’s electric power and Inslee insists the state must diversify.

“I think the state of Washington has a job creation future associated with moving forward on renewable energy. We see that happening in wind energy. We see that happening in solar energy,” he said.

Categories: Energy, Environment
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