Abbarno says Washington ‘should not be trying to emulate California’ in carbon plan


After the Washington state Department of Ecology announced it will explore linking the state’s carbon reduction program with California and the Canadian province of Quebec, state Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, said the state “should not be trying to emulate California.”

“California has the highest gas prices in the nation, with Washington close on their heels. I recently visited California and experienced firsthand their sky-high gasoline prices,” Abbarno said in a statement Thursday. “That's what will continue to happen to Washington under this linkage plan.”

The link Abbarno refers to is a “preliminary decision” by Laura Watson, the director of the Washington state Department of Ecology (DOE), to explore tying the state’s recently implemented carbon market with those in California and Quebec.

The announcement Thursday, Watson said, came after public input, and staff and economic analysis, where she “determined that seeking to link Washington’s cap-and-invest program to those in California and Québec likely offers our state the best path to a successful, stable carbon market that will allow us to meet the greenhouse gas emission limits set in state law.”

According to Watson, several additional steps need to be taken before any link takes place, including exploring the interests of both California and Quebec and what a timeline could look like. Watson said Thursday the earliest Washington could begin to operate in a linked market is “likely 2025 or later.”

In a statement Thursday, Sen. Joe Nguyễn, D-White Center, the chair of the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, said he was “excited” about the decision.

“While there are details that still need to be worked out, this is a crucial step forward for the stability of our cap-and-invest program,” Nguyễn said.

Passed by the Legislature in 2021 and implemented this year, the state’s carbon market aims to reduce the amount of carbon released, with a goal of Washington becoming net zero emission by 2050. The program created a marketplace, where companies can buy and sell “allowances” to emit greenhouse gasses.

According to Watson, linking the program to others would provide “price stability and assurances to participating businesses that would incentivize wise long-term strategies to reduce emissions.”

In a statement Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee said the preliminary decision is “good — and important — news.”

“The work ahead includes ensuring this action will benefit Washington and global climate efforts, and that it will protect overburdened communities in all three jurisdictions,” Inslee said.

Inslee said “joining with other governments in the same fight is the most effective way to reduce pollution, save our planet, and give our kids a livable future.”

Meanwhile legislators, including Abbarno, have tied the carbon market to the state’s higher gas prices. According to AAA, the average gas price in Washington State Thursday was $4.649 a gallon, more than $1 higher than the national average of $3.448.

Locally, drivers in Lewis County paid an average of $4.709 while Thurston County drivers paid an average of $4.64.

The average price for a gallon of gas in Washington has fallen 48 cents in the past month, and 24 cents when compared to a year ago.

"People in my district are already worried about everyday kitchen table issues, such as how they are going to pay their bills, feed their families, and purchase gasoline to get to work. The Department of Ecology wildly understated the cost of these carbon auctions, which are more than three times higher than the DOE predicted,” Abbarno said in the statement. “Now this state agency wants us to trust them and their predictions of linking up with the highest-cost state in the nation? This will only cost Washington working families more in the long run."

When the legislature returns to session in January, Abbarno said he anticipates Republicans will introduce a variety of proposals to curb gas prices and adjust the carbon program.

Earlier this year Rep. April Connors, R-Kennewick, suggested legislation to issue registered vehicle owners $100 each or $200 per family a year. Senator and gubernatorial candidate Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, urged the Legislature to cap the price of carbon pollution permits being auctioned off under the Climate Commitment Act.

“In my opinion, the cap-and-trade scheme needs to be repealed entirely. It’s inflicting too much suffering on working families and people living on fixed incomes. But several other proposals are also worth considering,” Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, said in a statement in September.