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Gov. Gregoire, legislative leaders announce Green Jobs and Climate Action legislation

For Immediate Release: January 29, 2009

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire and legislative leaders today announced a comprehensive Green Jobs and Climate Action legislative package. The proposed legislation will create jobs, expand our green economy, and make important progress toward energy independence.

“Washington is well-positioned to capitalize on the unique economic opportunities surrounding the growing green sector,” Gregoire said. “These proposals will help protect our environment as well as create and support jobs, stimulate the regional economy and strengthen Washington’s competitiveness in the global economy.”

In a news conference at the South Puget Sound Community College’s new LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Natural Sciences Building, Gregoire announced the following actions to stimulate green jobs and fight climate change:

• Proposed investments totaling $455 million in the next biennium for energy-reducing transportation projects, energy efficiency projects, green buildings and clean-energy technology.
Investments will support an estimated 2,900 jobs in 2010 and 2011.

• Legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions and create market incentives that will drive reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas pollution through a cap-and-trade system designed last year by the seven states (including Washington) and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative.

• Legislation providing a state tax exemption for the new generation of plug-in electric vehicles, a strategy to encourage Washington residents to purchase efficient and “clean” cars and which sends an important signal to the marketplace.

• A proposed partnership with the state’s clean technology industries to identify actions needed to ensure that Washington remains at the cutting edge of the green energy future.

• Asking the State Building Code Council to improve building energy efficiency by 30 percent beyond the 2006 standards.

“We can’t afford to delay. The time to act is now,” said Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Kitsap County, who chairs the Senate Environment, Water & Energy Committee and is sponsor of the Green Jobs and Climate Action legislation in the Senate.

“Our state’s environment and quality of life depend on decisive actions to slow the dramatic changes in our climate. Our best hope for doing this is to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels,” Rockefeller said. “Washington state must continue to lead the way and demonstrate that we can power our economy by more efficient use of energy, and by making the necessary transition to renewable and alternative energy sources in place of carbon-based fuels.”

“Acting now, we can create the certainty that many businesses need to invest in the green economy and create jobs,” said Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, who chairs the House Ecology and Parks Committee and is the legislation’s sponsor in that chamber. “Many of the investments in reducing climate-changing pollution will pay for themselves in lower expenditures on energy and fuel. The sooner the incentives are in place, the sooner they will pay off.”

“We know that keeping a forest healthy will help the trees absorb carbon and store it in wood products, and this new bill highlights the fact that we can create and foster the carbon market,” said Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam. “It shows that we can do the right thing for the environment as well as our forest products industry, and we’re finally realizing that cutting down trees and using wood products can help solve global climate change.”

The new legislation and investments are necessary for Washington to reach the greenhouse gas reductions called for in state law, which are:
• Shrinking greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.
• Cutting greenhouse gases to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Without the new legislation, Washington's climate action policies will achieve only 45 percent of the reductions the state needs to meet by 2020.

In addition, the governor also announced the results of a study by economists at the state Employment Security Department, which shows that Washington businesses have made a strong start in creating green jobs.

The study estimates that private-sector businesses and industries in Washington directly employ more than 47,000 people in green jobs — about 87 percent of them full-time workers. That’s nearly double the state goal of 25,000 by 2020.

Employment Security identifies green jobs as those that promote a healthy environment and energy security in four key business and industry sectors: energy efficiency, renewable energy, preventing and reducing pollution, and mitigating or cleaning up pollution.

Today 12 governors sent a letter to President Obama to request a meeting with him to develop a partnership to build a comprehensive American energy and climate policy strategy. Last November, then President-elect Obama called on all Governor’s at the national Climate Summit to find an aggressive and unified approach to in addressing global climate change challenges. This meeting request will be the first critical step toward that goal.