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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this newsletter finds you well as we will soon enter the holiday season with family and friends. In less than two months, on Jan. 8, legislators will convene in Olympia for the 2024 legislative session. We will have 60 short days to complete the business of the people of Washington. I want you to know I’ve been working hard to prepare for the upcoming session, as we struggle with affordability, and government transparency, especially in the energy economy. I’m working on ways to help our families, farms and businesses in these challenging times. Please read on to learn more about our proposals.

Today marks two special occasions in Washington state

I wish to take a moment to recognize two very special and important events in Washington state.

Today, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. We are blessed to live in freedom because of the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces. To them, sacrifice is not just a word, it’s a lifestyle. On beaches, deserts and in the jungles, they have demonstrated courage and strength on our behalf. Veterans Day is an opportunity for each of us to say a heartfelt “thank you” to those who have served. We are reminded through them that freedom itself is not free. Many have paid the ultimate price for us and our families. To the fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and children who bear a Gold Star, veterans wounded or healthy, and all our current U.S. military members – we say thank you!

Today is also the 134th birthday of Washington state. It was on this day in 1889 that Washington became the 42nd state. After a hiatus of 13 years when no states were admitted to the Union, the U.S. Congress passed an act in February 1889 enabling the territories of Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana to seek statehood. Before statehood could be conferred, a state constitution had to be written and passed by the Territories. Washington’s constitutional convention was convened in Olympia, the territorial capital, on July 4 and 75 men elected to that convention drew up a new state constitution. It was approved by Washington’s citizens on Oct. 1, 1889, and on Nov. 11, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation declaring that its “admission into the Union is complete.” The news was telegraphed to Olympia and set off celebrations where elected officials and citizens had been waiting. You can read more about our state’s birthday here. Happy birthday, Washington state!

This is the “Dream Team” of local, state and federal officials working on expansion of the Columbia Basin Project. It includes Rep. Mary Dye (second from the left), Sen. Judy Warnick, Rep. Tom Dent, and Natural Resources Conservation Chief Terry Cosby (center). The photo was taken Tuesday near Warden during a tour of the project area.

Federal and state funding secured for Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program

Nearly $73 million in federal and state dollars have been secured to pay for a trio of large-scale irrigation projects for the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program. The program is located in the eastward portion of the Columbia Basin Project.

There have been major concerns as deep wells in the Odessa Subaquifer are running dry or pumping saline water unusable for agricultural purposes and municipal water supplies. Irrigation and drinking water supplies are threatened in nearly a dozen Columbia Basin communities, including Moses Lake, Lind, Odessa, Connell, Othello and others.

I’ve been negotiating for several years with both state and federal officials for the expansion of the Columbia Basin Project, meeting in Olympia and Washington, D.C., and this summer, joined key federal officials on a tour of the project area, starting at Grand Coulee Dam.

We learned several days ago that $39.3 million is being provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service based on proposals submitted by the Columbia Basin Conservation District. The federal service also contributed $6 million in 2022.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, Sen. Judy Warnick, former Sen. Jim Honeyford, Rep. Tom Dent and I have been successfully working for some time to secure state and federal money for the project. The state’s current capital budget appropriates $32.8 million in matching funds. Also, about $42 million in cash and in-kind services are being provided from various partners. These include: the Office of Columbia River, East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, Columbia Basin Conservation District, and farmers on each delivery system who organized and contributed to the design and engineering on the successfully approved projects. Other partners include: Columbia Sustainable Water Coalition, Lincoln County Conservation District, Franklin County Conservation District, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Washington State Conservation Commission, Columbia Basin Development League, Washington State Potato Commission, and the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

The funding will pay for construction of delivery systems to connect water supplies to farms. When operational, the three systems are expected to conserve over 18 billion gallons of water annually within the aquifer while delivering replacement water to 18,426 acres of farmland. Construction is expected to begin next spring.

This is exciting news for our district and, hopefully, the beginning of what could someday be the completion of the entire Columbia Basin Project.

Learn more:

Salt Lake meeting further builds relationships to secure partnerships, help our farmers

Last month, I attended joint meetings for the National Association of State Conservation Agencies and the National Watershed Coalition in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the request of Washington State Conservationist, Roylene Comes-At-Night. Just as in previous annual meeting in Spokane two year ago, this was an opportunity to build relationships with national U.S. Department of Agriculture leadership, understand programs and funding opportunities better, and to work together for the benefit of our farming community.

As the only elected legislator attending, I saw firsthand how conservation districts and conservation commissions are using funding from both Congress and state legislatures to implement significant infrastructure investments for protection of our watersheds. We toured a dam restoration project and an ecosystem restoration project on the Provo River and spoke with courageous farm family that protected Heber Valley Dairy by securing a conservation land trust, preserving their family heritage from the pressures of development in the Heber Valley.

We also had access to insiders that are working with the congressional committees on the development of the conservation titles for the next farm bill. Natural Resources Conversation Service Associate Chief Louis Aspey sent his remarks in writing. Pelham Straughn from 9b Group, Washington, D.C., gave us a deep dive into provisions being debated and proposed funding levels.

As we continue to seek state and federal partnerships, the good news for the Columbia Basin Conservation District is that Congress is discussing ways to make our conservation programs work better since ample funding was directed to agricultural conservation programs from both the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Ideas are also being debated, such as how to streamline the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act to reduce time from planning to construction, how to delegate more authority to our state conservationists, and reform priorities to focus water infrastructure programs to the Western United States.

Conservation funding has provided essential tools to address the protection and improvement of our soil, water, and air quality. These programs improve the sustainability of our farm families. Without farm families, it would be impossible to improve the resources that produce food for a hungry world population. Each farmer is as important to protect as the resources they steward. They hold and pass down the accumulation of knowledge from generations of experience, combined with generations of research and development being applied to the land.

By investing in conservation programs, we protect the institutional knowledge held by the farmers, conservationists, industry agronomists, combined with public and private researchers. By investing in water delivery systems in the Columbia Basin for agriculture, we secure water supplies in our communities as well. Shoring up our food system in this region is absolutely needed for growing our local communities, securing our state and nation’s economy, our national security, and assuring abundant global food supplies. This is the service that our state’s farm families provide society. Giving them access to a sustainable water supply is critical.

Carbon auction rebate (CAR) proposal would return excess revenues back to struggling Washington families

In my last email update, I discussed the high prices of gasoline in our state. At one point this summer, Washington surpassed California for the highest gasoline price in the nation. Our prices have dropped, but so have prices across the United States. The average price of gasoline as of this week in Washington state is $4.553 a gallon for regular, which is the third highest in the nation behind California and Hawaii, respectively.

Our high gas prices are not the result of oil companies taking big profits, as Gov. Jay Inslee would have you believe. Washington’s high gasoline prices are a direct correlation to the implementation of Gov. Inslee’s cap-and-trade policy (Climate Commitment Act) that took effect in January. This new policy has increased gasoline prices in Washington state by nearly 50 cents per gallon and 62 cents per gallon for diesel. You can see the percentage difference in the chart below:

These higher prices equate to about $500 for the average Washington family per year. This year’s carbon auctions under the cap-and-trade program have netted Washington more than $1.4 billion — three times more than originally projected. That’s money you and I and our families are paying out to the state in the form of higher costs for gasoline, groceries and other necessities. My colleague, Rep. April Connors, R-Kennewick, and I feel it’s time to give some of that money back.

We plan to introduce legislation in the upcoming session to create a carbon auction rebate (CAR) payment program. Under our proposal, a $100 rebate would be sent to registered vehicle owners in Washington state. For a typical two-vehicle household, that would be $200.

The rebate would be funded exclusively from the revenue of the new cap-and-trade program that is over and above the amounts originally forecast in the last fiscal note of Senate Bill 5126 (2021). Those CAR checks could be even larger in subsequent years at the time of vehicle license renewal notifications, as amounts from excess revenue would be divided among vehicle owners. 

We recognize this may not completely offset expenses you are paying as a result of cap-and-trade. However, we believe it is a good step forward to help struggling Washington families.

As I said in my opinion-editorial published Thursday in the Spokesman-Review, “State agencies and policymakers shouldn’t be allowed to bask in the wealth of cap-and-trade profits while Washington motorists can’t afford the gas to get to work, see the doctor and take their kids to daycare. That’s wrong! We can, however, make this right and hold government accountable to the original cost of the governor’s carbon reduction goals by rebating excessive revenues to Washington vehicle owners.”

Read more about our proposal:

Rep. Mary Dye working on her wheat farm near Pomeroy

Linkage proposal with California/Quebec market could make Washington more expensive

In another development regarding the state’s cap-and-trade program, the state Department of Ecology (DOE) last week announced it would seek an agreement to link Washington’s carbon auction market with the California-Quebec market.

As I’ve mentioned in previous email updates, Washington’s cap-and-trade program (Climate Commitment Act) puts a price on carbon dioxide emissions by setting a declining annual cap on the emissions of covered businesses (such as utilities, refineries, etc.) and forcing them to buy state-issued allowances at quarterly auctions for any emissions above the cap. The three quarterly carbon auctions and two Allowance Price Containment Reserve auctions held so far this year, have brought in more than $1.4 billion — about three times more revenue than expected. That’s boosted Washington’s gasoline prices, making the cost-of-living in Washington state much higher.

DOE officials claim that linking Washington’s program with the California-Quebec market would increase the number of allowances available and result in lower prices for carbon allowances. However, I am not convinced that would happen.

Following the linkage announcement, I issued a statement that notes that it would not be wise to emulate California, which has among the highest prices of gasoline, housing and cost of living in the nation. I am very concerned that tying our programs together could result in a loss of sovereignty for Washington and higher prices for our citizens.

DOE’s forecast of 2023 auction market prices were wildly inaccurate, understating compliance costs by 75%. I am highly doubtful DOE is accurate with its new prediction that linking to California and Quebec would lower prices.

Learn more:

Please stay in touch!

The next two months before the 2024 session begins in January will go by very fast. Please remember that I am here to serve and represent you and our neighbors across the 9th Legislative District. I am always interested in hearing your questions, comments and ideas for legislation. Feel free to reach out to my office either via email, postal mail or phone. You’ll find my contact information below.

Enjoy the holidays and please stay in touch!

Sincerely,


Mary Dye

State Representative Mary Dye, 9th Legislative District
RepresentativeMaryDye.com
432 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
mary.dye@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7942 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000