Governor Inslee Issues Comprehensive Executive Order on Climate Change

April 29, 2014

Washington Governor Jay Inslee today issued an Executive Order that will address Washington's greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions on many different fronts. Issued in apparent response to the legislative logjam that has developed around the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup, the Executive Order (No. 14-04), requires actions in the following areas:

Cap-and-Trade Legislation: The Executive Order creates a new Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force to develop a legislative recommendation for a "cap and-market" mechanism, which would limit carbon emissions and establish an emissions allowance trading system designed to achieve GHG reductions in the most efficient manner. The Task Force, which includes 21 members from business, labor, health, and public interest organizations, meets for the first time today. It is instructed to provide recommended legislative by November 21, 2014.

Coal-Fired Electricity: The Executive Order directs the Governor's Legislative Affairs and Policy Office ("LAPO") to seek "negotiated agreements with key utilities and others" to reduce coal-fired electricity imported from outside the state and transition to cleaner sources. With the transition of Washington's only coal-fired plant at Centralia now well underway, Washington's remaining sources of coal-fired electricity will be generators located in states to the east, such as the Colstrip plant in Montana. Addressing the "coal-by-wires" issue is therefore the last remaining front for attacking significant GHG emissions in the electricity sector. The Executive Order requests help from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission ("UTC") and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to "actively assist and support" the transition away from coal-fired electricity, although, as we've previously discussed, the UTC has already moved significantly in this direction.

Clean Transportation: The Executive Order directs the Washington Department of Transportation ("DOT") to undertake a variety of measures to promote the use of electric vehicles and to increase statewide investments in and planning to encourage multimodal transportation. In particular, the Department of Commerce is instructed to evaluate the life-cycle costs of electric vehicles and to move forward with state procurement of such vehicles if warranted by the life-cycle analysis.

The DOT is also instructed to work with the Department of Ecology and the Department of Commerce to develop a new program of financial and technical assistance to assist local governments to improve transportation planning and efficiency, including updating comprehensive plans to encourage more efficient transportation and to reduce GHG from the transportation sector.

In addition, the Office of Financial Management is instructed, in cooperation with other state agencies, to evaluate the feasibility, costs, and benefits of using cleaner transportation fuels that will "reduce the carbon intensity of those fuels over time."

Finally, on the legislative front, the Department of Ecology is directed to review Washington's clean car statute and to recommend updates to the statute, "including the use of zero emissions vehicles."

Clean Technology: The order directs the Department of Commerce to develop a new state program to support research, development, and deployment of new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. The order also requests Washington State University's Energy Program to conduct a comprehensive review of current state and local policies governing solar energy, including state financial incentives, in order to improve the effectiveness of those incentives and expand the use of solar energy in the state.

Energy Efficiency: The Executive Order directs the Department of Commerce, the WSU Energy Program, and the State Building Code Council to develop a "new statewide program to significantly improve the energy performance of our public and private buildings," taking into account existing conservation efforts. The Executive Order lays out a number of goals for the new program, ranging from improved access to financing for energy efficiency to ensuring that conservation programs account for the externalities associated with GHG emissions.

The Executive Order also requests the WSU Energy Program to develop a conservation program aimed specifically at Washington's agricultural sector and to develop a new Industrial Energy Services Center that would provide energy efficiency services to industry, as well as additional funding to complement the region's many existing conservation programs.

State Government Coordination: The Executive Order creates a new Energy, Transportation and Climate subcabinet to coordinate state implementation of the Executive Order, which will include the Departments of Ecology, Commerce, Transportation, and Enterprise Services, along with the Office of Financial Management and the UTC.

If you have any questions about the matters discussed in this post, greenhouse gas regulation, renewable energy development, or other matters related to the energy industry, natural resources or the environment, please contact a member of GTH's Energy, Telecommunications, and Utilities practice group or Environment & Natural Resources practice group. We're proud that practice group members Jim Waldo, Don Cohen, Bill Lynne, and Brad Jones were all recently named 2014 Best Lawyers in America. In addition, GTH-Governmental Affairs provides a powerful compass to navigate the corridors of power in Olympia, and features consultants deeply experienced in transportation, energy, land use, enviornmental, and other areas touched on by Executive Order No. 14-04.