Opinion

State wastes a bundle trying to be ‘green’

One of the benefits of competition — the hallmark of the free market — is that we receive the greatest values for the lowest price.

By way of contrast, government often wastes money because there is little pressure to economize.

Two state efforts on climate change make this point clearly.

First, as part of developing a strategy on climate change, the state hired the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) to organize Washington’s Climate Advisory Team and analyze the costs and benefits of a wide range of potential strategies.

The Advisory Team produced a large document with dozens of potential policies.

For this service, Washington paid $200,000 to CCS. Other states also hired CCS to do similar work.

They, however, paid much less. Minnesota, for instance, paid only $40,000 for the identical process. South Carolina paid nothing for its services.

What’s more, the proposals developed by the Climate Action Team were never acted upon, and a bill incorporating their ideas never even received a vote in committee.

Washington paid more than other states — and all for nothing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of Washington wasting money on climate efforts.

As part of the state’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), it pays dues to be a member.

Initial dues for Washington came from the Department of Commerce (then CTED) and the Department of Ecology.

The dues amounted to $134,990 in total. By way of contrast, California paid only $89,000, Ontario paid $90,000 and Oregon paid $30,000.

What did we get for paying more?

Nothing.

Washington received no additional services for the additional cost.

We simply volunteered to pay nearly $105,000 more than Oregon.

What’s more, the WCI was developed to create a regional cap-and-trade system — a system that virtually everyone agrees is now dead.

So, Washington paid $200,000 for a process that others received for free, and paid $134,900 for an effort for which others paid less and is going nowhere.

Of course, $350,000 seems like small pickings. But the Department of Ecology eliminated a position last year costing $175,000.

The position was to “identify, assess and respond to toxic hotspots ... develop response to and reduce risks from toxics like benzene, chromium and formaldehyde,” noting that “communities would continue to be exposed to air pollution, new or expanded businesses face stricter pollution control requirements and the state might suffer federal sanctions for not getting this work done.”

The money Washington needlessly spent on efforts that others received for a lower price or free could have continued this position for two years.

Waste of money is waste of resources and the environment.

By spending money needlessly and ineffectively we have lost the ability to help the environment today.

Todd Myers is director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment

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