Earth Day comes and goes every year, and many who celebrated it over the last week can point to local efforts to gradually reduce the use of fossil fuels in their cities, counties, schools or ports.
Celebrating the health of our planet and its diverse species can be fun, too. Olympia activists plan their always colorful Procession of the Species parade Saturday afternoon along downtown streets.
What is important to remember after this year’s Earth Day is that what happens politically statewide and nationally over the next eight months could not be more crucial to protecting the environment.
A lot of damage may come to our planet if President Trump and his federal Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt succeed in rolling back Obama-era limits for power-plant emissions or undo curbs on other pollutants.
There is no room for complacency. There is plenty of work to do both in Congress and in our state Legislature.
State Rep. Beth Doglio, a first-term Olympia Democrat, told The Olympian Editorial Board after the Legislature’s 2018 session ended in March that failure to pass significant new climate-change policies was her biggest legislative disappointment.
Legislators failed once again to put a price on carbon emissions from fossil fuels, which are linked by scientists to a warming planet and rising seas.
That leaves the job directly for voters this fall – if enough of them sign petitions to put Initiative 1631 on the November ballot and enough turn out to vote for it.
Lighter weight ideas also died in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. For example, lawmakers were unable to extend the life of a sales-tax break for electric vehicle purchases and leases.
Critics think the tax breaks are unneeded to spur electric-car sales. We’ll have to see how well sales and leases of electric vehicles grow after the tax-break expires on May 31.
Doglio tempered her disappointment by saying other bills moved a few steps through the legislative process and that advocates will return next year to push them to passage. One bill sets a goal of getting the state’s electricity grid 100 percent off fossil fuels.
One climate-related bill that actually passed into law this year will offer business-tax breaks for production of “renewable natural gas.” Under terms of House Bill 2580, renewable natural gas is methane fuel produced from farm waste such as manure.
The measure asks several state agencies to submit recommendations to the governor and legislative committees by Sept. 1 for how to promote development of this renewable fuel.
But these steps are incremental at best, and I-1631’s proposed fee on carbon in fuels looms as a major policy shift.
Whether I-1631 is the right prescription to encourage the move our state's businesses and consumers from fossil fuels to cleaner fuels needs closer study.
Stay tuned. The 2018 election cycle is shaping up as a major year for the environment.