Washington governor lays out carbon cap-and-trade plan

Washington Governor Jay Inslee laid out a plan for a carbon cap-and-trade program aimed at fighting global warming and raising $1 billion a year for state schools and public transportation initiatives, but he will first need the support of a divided state legislature.

The program would place an overall limit, or cap, on the amount of carbon that large businesses and fuel distributors can emit. Those companies would then have the option to either reduce their carbon output, buy carbon permits at state-run auctions, or purchase permits from other businesses on the open market.

However, the program faces an uphill battle politically since it will need the state legislature to sign off on the proposal before becoming law, including approval from the Republican-held state Senate.

The proposal in many ways mirrors California’s two-year-old cap-and-trade program, which, like Washington, also aims to help the state roll carbon emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.

Inslee plans to introduce legislation early next year with an eye toward launching the program in July 2016 and linking with the California market at a later date.

Unlike California’s program, Washington would not give any carbon permits for free to oil refineries, pulp and paper producers or gasoline distributors, which account for 85 percent of the state’s output.

Businesses will instead be required to purchase permits at the outset of the program. Permits are expected to be priced at around $12 a metric tonne in 2016, Inslee officials said.