Cap-and-trade bill passes House Environment and Energy Committee; Democrats reject Abbarno’s ‘USA’ amendment prioritizing workers and their families

“A lot of blue-collar trade workers don’t want to hear that they’re going to be transitioned from their livelihood. So how do we find that balance? As much as I want to believe there’s a green economy and everyone is going to be transitioned into a job that has a better life trajectory for them and their families, I haven’t seen that nationally or internationally yet.” Rep. Peter Abbarno in the House Environment and Energy Committee, April 16, 2021.

On Friday evening, majority Democrats in the House Environment and Energy Committee passed the governor’s so-called “Climate Commitment Act,” Senate Bill 5126, a 60-page measure that would enact a complicated cap and trade system in Washington. So complex, the bill summary is 30 pages, and so expensive, the fiscal note reads like a book at 99 pages long.

The bill would enact a limit (cap) on entities that emit carbon dioxide or produce and/or distribute fuel that emits carbon when combusted in vehicle engines. The trade is an auction of state-issued allowances, run by an independent contractor, to emit more carbon than the cap. The state Department of Ecology is granted broad authority to set the pricing and limits. Ecology will adjust the cap over multi-year compliance periods. The costs of those allowances would be passed to the consumer.

During consideration of the bill by the committee, Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, offered two amendments.

The first amendment would have renamed the “Climate Investment Account” as the “Union Solidarity Account,” or the “USA.” It would have authorized expenditures from that account on worker transition programs for workers in areas negatively affected by the cap-and-trade program. It would have also provided a matching payment to the working families tax exemption and workforce education purposes.

“The cap-and-trade legislation is another environmental bill that aims to kill good paying family wage jobs in our communities,” said Abbarno. “The Democratic majority’s environmental bills that mention ‘retraining and wage replacement’ is code for ‘your fired’! My amendment prioritizes working Washington, prioritizes working families and puts people first.”

The amendment was rejected on a party-line vote.

Watch Rep. Abbarno’s comments here:

The second amendment Abbarno offered would have eliminated the authority of the Department of Ecology (DOE) to enter into a linkage agreement with another jurisdiction’s greenhouse gas emissions trading program (such as California or Quebec), unless the Legislature enacts a bill or budget proviso after Dec. 1, 2022 from DOE addressing linkage. This amendment was also rejected.

Rep. Abbarno voiced his concerns about the bill upon final passage. Watch those comments here:

The bill passed on a near party-line vote with only one Democrat voting against it. The measure is now before the House Appropriations Committee for further consideration.