Rep. Mary Dye: Washington’s new energy policies enact great expense to those who can least afford it
“The possibility of a global environmental apocalypse has been dominating headlines and exercises a powerful hold on the imaginations of millions of people,” according to optimist and author Marion L. Tupy. Headlines of imminent catastrophe are resulting in public policy driving our nation and our state as well as many other western economies to the brink.
The Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), passed in 2019, and the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) of 2021 form the architecture for the radical decommissioning of all petroleum in our state’s energy portfolio. These laws are embedded into the machinery of our energy-based economy. High inflation and systemic growth in government spending are directly related to the imagination of catastrophic global collapse should we do nothing.
A well-oiled consortium of thought leaders and corporate interests created a climate policy that extracts revenue from our energy economy and redistributes it. The policy determines an arbitrary price on carbon by applying a penalty to petroleum producers, refiners, distributors, users, and anybody who produces anything in our free-enterprise system.
Our state issued a limited number of “allowances” to “emitters” and created a market managed by the Department of Ecology. Allowances must be purchased at a price set at an auction — the people producing energy and goods for our economy are made to pay a penance. These policies spread the cost across every aspect of our economic life, making everything more expensive. On a party-line vote, CETA and CCA socialized our energy economy.
Revenues in the billions are used to purchase products from China, which dominates the supply chain for “clean energy,” and is justified by arguments about equity and environmental justice even though the metals for EV batteries are mined and refined in places without strong, enforceable environmental or labor protection laws. Rapid construction of industrial wind and solar facilities, a land-consuming choice with obvious environmental and social costs, will cover hundreds of thousands of acres east of the Cascades. This is all driven by state decarbonization policies like CETA and the CCA.
For our state, massive land-use changes, and the cost of fuel for homes, industries, agricultural production, and transportation are causing unintended distress. The state’s largest utility testified that 48% of its residential customers now qualify for a 60% energy assistance discount on their power bill. The resulting cost is shifted to fewer full-paying customers, and the commercial and industrial customers bear the burden. More than $150 million has been extracted from farm families as they also paid the carbon surcharge to produce food.
Policies designed to punish producers and redistribute their legitimately earned income diminish their capacity to invest and innovate solutions to carbon dioxide emissions, empowering a stronger government machine. The Climate Commitment Act (Senate Bill 5126) and penalties under CETA (Senate Bill 5116) add a hidden carbon expense to producers and escalate higher costs of living for every Washingtonian. While extracting a cost to disincentivize the use of energy, these policies unilaterally shifted the environmental impacts of the transformation to agricultural regions in our state.
There is a different way to address the environmental concerns in our state. I have introduced policies to build healthy forests, prosperous timber communities and improve water quality in the densely populated areas of the state and address the health of our salmon and other marine life in the Puget Sound. Protecting our resources has immediate benefits for the health and well-being of our communities and long-term benefit by using nature to cool and protect both our airshed and our watersheds.
Energy transformation envisioned by these two major acts passed by the single-party majority in Olympia may assuage the environmental guilt of urban “educated” elites, but it does so at the expense of our nation’s soul as our agricultural lands and wild lands are consumed for industrial energy sites and we surrender our energy wealth to government. Our families, unfortunately, pay the price.
Editor’s note: Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, is the ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee. She represents the 9th Legislative District, which includes Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Franklin, Lincoln, Adams, Whitman, and south Spokane counties.