Opinion

Gov. Gregoire's environmental extremism flouts the law—again

Following the most recent session, I authored an opinion piece in which I listed good and bad business bills considered by the Legislature, including Senate Bill 5735. That’s the big “cap-and-trade” legislation that would have forced businesses to pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Legislators, citizens and small business owners successfully fought to stop this measure, which would have imposed some of the state’s most costly regulations against businesses.

Unfortunately, Gov. Christine Gregoire decided to issue an executive order to impose the provisions of the bill, ignoring the concerns voiced against the measure by Washingtonians.

“We can’t further delay action on climate change,” she said, as if it is an emergency that immediately threatens our state.

Certainly none of us want to see our polar ice caps melt or have drastic changes in our weather systems that could affect the populations of the world. But whether or not you agree with environmentalists that global warming exists, let’s put away that argument for just a moment and get to the heart of the matter here in Washington.

Pay close attention to this paragraph: Washington is one of the cleanest states in the nation. Our state produces only three-tenths of 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s like a pebble of sand on an entire beach. With such little output, no amount of reductions we attempt in Washington will have any effect on global greenhouse gas emissions.

Washington is already green.

Apparently that doesn’t matter to the governor, whose executive order includes such provisions as:

  • Develop emission-reduction strategies and industry emissions benchmarks to make sure 2020 reduction targets are met.
  • Work on low-carbon fuel standards or alternative requirements to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. That likely could mean future tax increases as evidenced in proposed bills the last couple of years, such as taxing the size of your automobile engine (Senate Bill 6900 - 2008 session), and/or a mandatory reduction of the vehicle miles you travel. (House Bill 2815 - 2008 session; House Bill 1490 - 2009 session)
  • Work with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a regional emissions reduction program design.
  • Work with the Obama administration to help design a national program that is strong and reflects state priorities. (Association of Washington Business President Don Brunell notes Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal would be “a $650 billion hidden tax on all Americans.”)

Why are we spending millions of dollars on policies that would kill thousands of jobs and force businesses to leave Washington? It makes no sense to take such drastic steps that would merely polish an already clean state.

If there’s any salvation to our businesses about the governor’s executive order, enforcement is questionable.

A 1991 Attorney General’s opinion noted, “The legislative authority of the state of Washington is vested in the Legislature. The governor cannot create obligations, responsibilities, conditions or processes having the force and effect of law by the issuance of an executive order.”

Even if the executive order is unenforceable, you can be sure it won’t be the last we’ll see of this attempt by government to seize more power and tax dollars on the pretense of creating a better environment.

So please stay alert and involved.

State Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) represents the 39th Legislative District.

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