OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington House on Friday passed a cap-and-trade measure that puts a price on carbon emissions and includes a new 5-cent increase of the gas tax.
The bill passed the Democratic-led chamber on a 54-43 vote and now heads back to the Senate for a final vote on changes made by the House. The bill first passed the Senate earlier this month.
The Seattle Times reported that the measure will take effect as scheduled in January 2023 but only if lawmakers have approved a new transportation-spending package by then. Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged this week that a package won’t get done by Sunday, which is the last day of the 105-day legislative session.
The proposal creates a "cap-and-invest" program to gradually set tighter limits on carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases. It requires polluters to decrease emissions steadily, or buy allowances for pollution.
The money collected would go toward projects that include, among other things, energy conservation, transportation and assistance for a transition to clean energy.
The passage of carbon-pricing comes after voters twice rejected proposed carbon taxes at the ballot box and represents a significant step forward on clean-energy policy.
If implemented, Washington would become the second state — behind California — to have a comprehensive carbon-pricing law.
"We’ve solved problems like this before, lead in gasoline, the ozone hole, acid rain," said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-West Seattle, in a speech on the House floor. He added later: "It’s not too late for us to get this right."
Republicans argued that the policy is ineffective and would put an undue burden on businesses.
Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, cited the pollution allowances that companies will need to pay and the gas-tax increase as burdensome tax increases wrapped inside environmental policy.
The new 5-cent tax will be added on top of the 67.8 cents currently paid in state and federal taxes on gasoline in the state.