John Braun: The hits just keep coming from Democrats’ cap-and-tax law


Anyone who buys gasoline already knows how the price of a gallon of unleaded regular in our state has shot up since majority Democrats’ cap-and-tax law — the so-called Climate Commitment Act, or CCA — took full effect in 2023. The same gas costs significantly less in Oregon and Idaho, which are free of a cap-and-tax policy.

Washington customers of an Oregon-based natural-gas company know they are getting hit at more than the gas pump. Their billing statements include a “WA Climate Act Fee” line item showing what the law is costing them. Puget Sound Energy (PSE) wanted to do the same for its customers, but this past fall, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office and the state Utilities and Transportation Commission forced PSE to keep that information secret.

"Whenever the people are well informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789, “they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."

Clearly the advice from the attorney general’s office was intended to keep Washington’s cap-and-tax law from attracting the notice of PSE customers.

Cap-and-tax is also behind the recent passage of House Bill 1589, which gives PSE a path to not only end natural-gas service to 900,000 customers but also forces those customers to bear the cost of electrifying their homes — which could be up to $70,000 each. Common sense says other utilities will likely want to be included under this same policy to comply with the cap-and-tax law, at the expense of consumers.

Let’s add another one to the list of damages tied to this wrong-headed law.

In Grays Harbor County, taxpayers will see their property-tax bills go up because of an agreement that devalues the most valuable property in the county — home to the natural gas-fired electricity-generating plant in Satsop — by more than $100 million over the next few years.

As a news report put it, “Signed by the Grays Harbor county assessor and the property owner, Grays Harbor Energy, the agreement states that the high costs of carbon credit purchases imposed by the state’s Climate Commitment Act substantially reduced the plant’s market value.”

When the value of one property, like the Satsop plant, goes down, every other property owner has to pick up the tab for the loss. Lewis County property owners have experience with this situation because of the closure of the TransAlta operation north of Centralia.

The county assessor calculates the additional property-tax hit to owners of a $250,000 home in the East Grays Harbor Fire and Rescue District, which surrounds the Satsop facility, at $217 per year. Property owners may have to bear more costs from other taxing districts, as well.

To be fair, the Satsop plant’s situation is also complicated by another law brought to you by Gov. Jay Inslee and majority Democrats: The “clean energy transformation act” from 2019, which also requires an end to coal-fired power.

Senate Republicans offered an alternative that would have made a difference for the Grays Harbor Energy Center, which is the county’s largest taxpayer. Senate Bill 5043 was a piece of the Power Washington plan we unveiled in late 2022, before the damage from the cap-and-tax law became so apparent. It would have responded to the 2019 law by recognizing that power plants that comply with the state greenhouse-gas emissions performance standard are consistent with Washington's long-term policy for electricity.

This policy would have helped to ensure the diverse energy portfolio our state needs. Inslee and his Democrat allies wouldn’t hear of it. SB 5043 didn’t even receive a public hearing.

In January, our state experienced a brief cold snap. PSE responded by asking its customers to reduce their energy usage, while a Democrat state senator took to social media to celebrate her access to natural-gas heat.

Afterward, I pointed out how the Democrats’ energy agenda jeopardizes the reliability of our power grid. They push for more electric vehicles while failing to defend the lower Snake River dams and the carbon-free hydropower they produce. They support the natural-gas ban charted by the PSE bill. They are reducing our access to power rather than expanding it.

Sure enough, one of the “yes” votes on HB 1589 came from the Democrat senator who praised the natural gas that had warmed her when the power went out just a couple of months earlier.

Simply banning fossil fuels and taxing an overworked grid is not a real-world solution. You wonder who will be harmed next by the cap-and-tax law, and how.


Sen. John Braun of Centralia serves the 20th Legislative District, which spans parts of four counties from Yelm to Vancouver. He became Senate Republican leader in 2020.