Wrong time for Legislature to consider cap and trade, when COVID relief should be top issue, says Ericksen

Governor’s controversial cap and trade bill gets hearing in Senate as public locked out of Olympia

  • Would increase energy prices, impose new costs on industry and agriculture
  • Could force consumers to “pay twice” for carbon reduction, utilities warn
  • Sweeping initiative should be out-of-bounds when public can’t fully participate

OLYMPIA – The governor’s new cap-and-trade proposal got its first hearing in the state Senate Tuesday, and Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, says the meeting demonstrated why the subject ought to be out of bounds at a time when the public cannot fully participate.

COVID precautions are prompting severe restrictions on public access to Olympia during the 2021 legislative session. Most senators and staff are barred from the Capitol, all committee sessions are being held virtually, and opportunities for public interaction with the Legislature are strictly limited.

The cap and trade bill, one of the most significant policies the Legislature has considered in the last decade, would require industry and utilities to pay for carbon-reduction programs, and the cost almost certainly would be passed on to the consumer. At Tuesday’s hearing, the Energy, Environment and Technology Committee heard remote testimony from dozens of environmental groups, utilities and business interests. But those who testified were limited to about 90 seconds apiece, and lawmakers were not permitted to ask questions of speakers.

Lawmakers shouldn’t be considering sweeping policies like these at a time when the public has little opportunity to influence legislation, says Ericksen, ranking Republican on the committee. In addition to cap and trade, majority Democrats in the House and Senate are pushing an ambitious agenda this year that includes an income tax, a rewrite of the Growth Management Act, and a low-carbon fuel standards measure that would dramatically increase the price of motor fuel.

“This cap and trade legislation is one of the biggest proposals ever entertained by the Legislature,” Ericksen said. “This isn’t just about the cost of driving your car or heating your home. It’s about the price of groceries, the cost of real estate and your ability to find a job. We don’t need to debate issues like cap and trade this year, and we shouldn’t be debating them when the public isn’t here.”

Ericksen said he will continue to urge the Legislature to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 8400, which would adjourn the regular legislative session and launch a 30-day special session on COVID economic recovery issues. Ericksen and other Republicans maintain recovery from the economic crisis ought to be the state’s top priority.

“During the hearing, we heard there are significant problems with the governor’s cap and trade bill. Utilities told us this sets up a conflict with the law passed two years ago requiring early retirement of coal plants, and that consumers could wind up paying twice for carbon reduction programs. Agriculture told us that higher fuel prices will drive up food prices and push farmers to the brink. We can’t deal with problems like these in 90 seconds of testimony, when members can’t ask questions. The entire state deserves a say in something like this.”