Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 Legislative Session Starts Amid Climate Change Concerns

 Above: Not everyone is interested in climate change issues, as evidenced by the couple on the left. They might be interested one day, but, this morning, they felt pretty safe making out while a small group of folks gathered nearby.

by Janine Unsoeld

Climate change activists bundled up early this morning to head down to Percival Landing to observe another high tide in downtown Olympia. This one, however, was nowhere near the level reached in December. Budd Inlet, was, in fact, quite calm due to a high atmospheric pressure.

"The event is a non-event," said Andy Haub, city of Olympia planning and engineering manager, arriving this morning by bicycle to the gathering on his way to work. Mayor Stephen Buxbaum briefly hung out with the few shivering die-hards by The Kiss statue, who all then headed to the Bread Peddler for morning treats.

Haub will explain sea-level rise issues at the city's third annual community update on climate change on Monday, February 4, 2013, 7:00 p.m. at the Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, Room B, in downtown Olympia. The event will also be hosted with Transition Olympia and a local group called Confronting the Climate Crisis.

This year’s discussion will focus on Olympia-specific implications and response to climate change and sea level rise. Haub will provide an update on the city’s ongoing sea level rise work and summarize a recently-released federal study of potential sea rise rates along the Pacific Coast including Washington. Rhonda Hunter, a former coordinator of climate change planning for the state Department of Ecology will discuss climate change action from the state to the individual level. Time will be provided for questions and answers.

2013 Legislative Session, Climate Action Rally Begins Amid Snow Flurries
Later in the afternoon, this first day of the 2013 legislative session, a grassroots climate action rally was held on the steps of the Capitol Building, featuring local speakers and musicians, including Jim Page.

Glen Anderson, coordinator of the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation, which created the Confronting the Climate Crisis group, addressed the crowd.

"Climate scientists are virtually unanimous that the climate crisis is real, is caused by humans, and is getting worse very rapidly...on this first day of the Legislative session, we affirm that the climate crisis is our first priority, and we call upon the Washington State Legislature and Governor Inslee to act boldly to protect our climate. We are all in this together!"

Gar Lipow, a local independent journalist and author of "Cooling A Fevered Planet" and other books related to the climate crisis, was also one of the speakers.

"Washington State is a center of awareness about the climate crisis. Let's make it a center for action as well when it comes to creating green jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions....and let Washington State's citizen's push our national leaders for national action too!"

Above: Glen Anderson speaks at today's climate action rally.

Stephanie Angeles, 26, of Seattle, came to Olympia specifically to attend the climate action rally. A volunteer with Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and a student at the University of Washington, her senior project is coal exports. "I'm dealing with it as a violation of the federal Clean Water Act and I spoke at the scoping hearing in December in Seattle....It's so important to be down here!"
The Climate Crisis and a Carbon Tax

In an interview later, Lipow said he is watching a proposed carbon tax expected to be introduced this session by the Senate Majority Assistant Whip, Senator Kevin Ranker (D- 40th District, Orcas Island).

Although Ranker has not yet introduced the legislation, Lipow has read the description and says it is regressive. Ranker was interviewed by KUOW on January 7 on the value and advantages of introducing a tax on carbon in Washington state.

"By its very nature, a carbon tax is hits the poor, and it's hard to structure. If you have a carbon tax, it's a matter of justice and political reality for it to be progressive. So, the way you make it progressive is you spend the revenue in a way that benefits the majority of the people. Ranker's bill says it's looking at relieving business and property taxes. It's not going to help....If you pass a tax that's going to hurt the local plumber but not Bill Gates, how much support do you think you're going to get in the future?" said Lipow.

Lipow says he supports a carbon tax, but it's probably not going to be a high priority for him this session. Instead, he has developed a position paper called N.O. F.E.A.R. (No Obligation Funding of Efficiency and Renewables) that he hopes to promote with legislators.

"If we deployed all mature efficiency and renewable technology in Washington State where energy savings would pay back costs, we create tens of thousands of jobs, and grow our state's economy," said Lipow.

Lipow says that utilities in six states, including Oregon, finance insulation, solar hot water heaters, and other forms of efficiency and renewables by adding monthly charges to utility bills. Charges are tied to the meter, not the payer. A monthly fee becomes another part of the utility bill. When the current occupant moves, the next occupant is liable for it, just as the next tenant is liable for the rest of the electric bill.

Lipow suggests that Washington State can issue tax exempt bonds for purposes such as renewables and efficiency and then lend the proceeds of the bond sales to non-profit groups that engage in installing such technology, such as the Washington State Housing Finance Commission does.

"If we formed non-profit Renewable and Efficiency Districts in each county, they could partner with utilities to finance such programs on a large scale, funded by tax exempt bonds issued by Washington State," said Lipow.

The result would be that funds could be available to home owners, small business, and renters who would not need to borrow money to take advantage of the opportunities, and funds would be available to everyone, regardless of income level.

To learn more about progressive use of a carbon tax, Charles Komanoff will be speaking in Olympia on Wednesday, February 13, 7:00 p.m. at Traditions Fair Trade, 300 5th Avenue SW. Komanoff directs the Carbon Tax Center, a New York based clearinghouse for information, research and advocacy on behalf of revenue-neutral carbon taxes to address the climate crisis.

The Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation's climate action group meets at the Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW. The next meeting is Tuesday, January 22. For more information, contact Bourtai Hargrove at for more information.

For more information about the City of Olympia sea-level rise discussion on February 4, contact Andy Haub at (360) 570-3795 or Barb Scavezze, Transition Olympia, a local organization focused on building community resilience and self-reliance, at (360) 878-9901.

For more information about past high tides events in downtown Olympia, see articles on this blog at and type key words into the search button. 

Above: Stephanie Angeles of Seattle came to Olympia today to participate in the climate action rally on the steps of the Capitol Building.