Bad Economy Leads to Slimmer Climate Change Plan in Washington State

Bad Economy Leads to Slimmer Climate Change Plan in Washington State

The state of Washington is reportedly planning on a watered-down climate change action plan in light of the economic recession and a multi-billion dollar state budget deficit.

Gov. Chris Gregoire released a slimmer budget proposal two weeks ago that calls for spending roughly $25 million to address climate change but won't pursue other steps recommended by the state's task force, such as compact urban development, improved recycling and incentives for energy efficient buildings, the Associated Press reported.

"We'll do as much as we can within the confines of the budget," Tony Usibelli, assistant director of the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, told the AP. "That's the difficulty we're running up against."

Concern over the economy has the governor favoring giving away the majority of carbon permits in a regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program at the heart of the state's emissions reduction plan. Most environmental groups prefer the permits for big polluters be auctioned off to raise money for energy efficiency projects and cleantech, and to incentivize companies to invest in emissions reduction strategies.

The cap-and-trade rules under the Western Climate Initiative dictate that at least 10 percent of the permits be auctioned off. Other WCI members include Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

California earlier this month approved its ambitious plan to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 despite the terrible economy. President-elect Barack Obama has also signaled his intent to pursue a climate change agenda in the belief that the transition to a cleaner economy will create millions of green jobs.