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Despite vetoes, monumental climate legislation signed into law

The Tesoro Corp. refinery, in Anacortes, Wash. Gas flares like this are part of normal plant operations. (AP)

While the veto of a link between the climate bills and a transportation package — which had been a compromise to get votes from moderate legislators — caused some controversy, the governor still signed prominent climate legislation into law on Monday.

Two bills aimed at reducing pollution, first proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee at the start of session as part of his climate package, became official with the sweep of the governor’s pen.

“Our children who are struggling for breath because of an epidemic of asthma cannot wait,” Inslee said. “Our burning forests, with thousands of acres that have been burning the last few years, cannot wait.”

House Bill 1091, the Clean Fuel Standard, requires fuel companies to lower the amount of carbon in their fuel by 10% by 2028, and by 20% by 2035. In its place would go clean sources of energy, such as biofuels. Alternatively, fuel manufacturers could buy carbon credits from businesses producing clean energy.

Washington State Senate passes pair of landmark climate bills

“We know that cleaner fuels give us cleaner air to breathe,” Inslee said. “We know that transportation is our largest single-sector of air pollution, so cleaning up our fuels is the best thing we can do.”

Senate Bill 5126, also known as the Climate Commitment Act, caps emissions from large polluters, and then lowers that cap every year to force them to continually reduce their fossil fuel output. Any company that wants to go over the limit must buy allowances to pollute.

The sale of those allowances funds environmental causes like green energy investments and public transportation, with a focus on helping communities that are already overburdened by pollution. To that end, the bill also convenes an Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Panel to look into reducing the pollution burden on communities of color, which have been shown to be more likely to live near factories, airports, and other sources of emissions.

“The people of the state of Washington deserve a concrete, enforceable, pragmatic, economically growth-oriented limitation on pollution that they don’t have to breathe,” Inslee said.

Opponents fear the fuel companies will cover the increased costs incurred by the bill by raising prices at the pump; they say this mostly will hurt those who can least afford it. Inslee says it will not raise prices.

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