Rep. Mary Dye: Washington can have a clean environment without cleaning out your pocketbook
The environment is unquestionably important to every one of us who live, work and raise families in our beautiful state of Washington. It has also become a political hotbed of polar-opposite views between urban versus rural, Eastern Washington and the Puget Sound, and between Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
Gov. Inslee has reintroduced his climate change policies – the same ones defeated year after year in the Legislature since he took office in 2013. And for good reason. They are expensive to every individual in the state of Washington and would have little effect on our state's already clean environment.
Majority Democrats are doing what they can to advance these policies quickly and quietly through the House Environment and Energy Committee as the public largely remains unaware. Some examples include:
- House Bill 1091 would create a low-carbon fuel standard mandate, which could increase the cost of gasoline at the pumps by as much as 57 cents per gallon and diesel by 63 cents per gallon. It sets up a regressive tax system that will benefit big out-of-state corporations and will disproportionally impact those with lower incomes and those who drive longer distances to get to work.
- House Bill 1050 would create further restrictions on refrigerants that would greatly impact our Eastern Washington food processing plants. The new refrigerants are more volatile than what is now in use.
- House Bill 1084 would prohibit a natural gas utility from offering new service to customers after July 1 of this year, and limit expansion of natural gas for residential and commercial space and water heating. We can expect new home prices to go up. We need to recall that Washington's Clean Energy Transformation Act, passed in 2019, relies heavily upon the continued use of natural gas to be successful. What we are seeing, once again, is a potential collision in statute that doesn't bode well for business or families.
- House Bill 1099 would, in part, require some local counties to begin planning for the vehicle-miles traveled program. Again, rural residents who drive further to get to their jobs will feel the impacts.
This narrow view of carbon and fossil fuel as our enemy seems to be an obsession with the majority party in Olympia. As the new ranking Republican of the House Environment and Energy Committee, I believe we must look at several unrecognized factors currently missing in the climate conversation. One example is urban heat islands.
Coastal cities, such as Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, are heating the atmosphere – not from carbon – but from city heat absorption. Seattle can be up to 17 degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas in the summer. Waterways are impacted from warm stormwater runoff, and this affects critical habitat for salmon. Seattle environmentalists point to our Snake River dams as the problem. They need to look in the mirror. Warm stormwater flowing into Puget Sound from heat generated in their own city is destroying salmon habitat, as well as wastewater treatment plant failures dumping raw sewage into the Sound.
I've introduced House Bill 1114 and House Bill 1211 to address urban heat island issues, provide incentives to use heat reflective materials, plant trees and enact practices that would cool our cities and significantly reduce the impacts to our environment.
My goal is to focus on cost and transparency. My House Bill 1130 sets goals to reduce electrical and natural gas costs by 50% by 2030. And House Bill 1327 would require electric utilities to provide an illustrative graphic to customers that compares the bill charges to an expected bill total if the utility used least-cost resources to provide electricity.
These are fresh solutions to address our environmental and energy issues. We can protect and preserve our state's pristine environment without enacting costly, unproven carbon reduction schemes that do little more than make the extreme left in Olympia feel good about themselves at your expense.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, represents the 9th Legislative District and is the ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee.