CO2 Regulation Envy

Governor Gregoire is going to beat King County Executive Ron Sims to it: the State legislature just passed House Bill 2815, which establishes reduction targets for C02 emissions as well as strategies for achieving these reductions.

Meanwhile the City of Seattle, whose Mayor is noted for spearheading the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, has not yet adopted any binding legislation that regulates CO2 emissions, and is starting to fall behind in the race between big US cities to require green building in the private sector.

One of the most surprising components of the State legislation is the establishment of goals for the reduction of vehicle miles traveled: 18% by 2020, 30% by 2030, and 50% by 2050. Surprising first of all because we are still living in a highly car-centric culture that for the most part doesn’t take kindly to being told not to drive. And surprising also because the targets are so aggressive, especially considering that the State’s population is expected to grow from 6 million to 10 million by 2050.  Update:  the targets are based on per capita emissions, so population growth is irrelevant.

Because we get much of our electricity from carbon-free hydro-power, the transportation sector accounts for an atypically high 47% of statewide CO2 emissions. So it makes sense to focus on reducing vehicle miles traveled. But there’s an unfortunate twist. The State legislation was crafted to mesh with the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a coalition of seven US States and two Canadian Provinces working to establish a common cap and trade system. However, as reported over at Sightline, WCI’s current recommendation is to not include transportation fuels in the cap and trade system.

In any case, now that it’s about to go on the books that we need to reduce vehicle miles traveled by a full 50% by 2050, how can the State possibly justify spending billions on rebuilding the Viaduct, or spending billions on the 520 bridge, or spending even another penny on increasing car capacity anywhere?  And how can the State possibly justify not spending billions on transit, and not spending billions on compact development that reduces reliance on cars?

9 Responses to “CO2 Regulation Envy”

  1. Ben Schiendelman

    Hey, did you notice that the Governor’s CO2 reduction plan doesn’t include transit at all? It seems odd that it wouldn’t include even a mention.

  2. Seattle Takes a Step Toward GHG Regulation | hugeasscity

    […] In past posts I’ve been critical of Seattle’s progress toward mandating green development, so I can’t let this pass: As of yesterday, Seattle will require greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions evaluations for every project large enough to trigger a SEPA review. (Residential projects with four units or less, and commercial projects 4000 square feet or less are typically exempt from SEPA.) […]

  3. The Eco-Fascist Liberals Are Coming To Take Your Cars Away! | hugeasscity

    […] So says the eloquent Dino Rossi. And also, “she wants to force 50 percent of us out of our cars by 2050.” (She being Governor Gregoire, who recently signed house bill 2815 that sets a goal of reducing VMTs by 50% by 2050). […]

  4. Good Read On Regional Growth | hugeasscity

    […] Another factor that will likely increase growth in urban centers is the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. WA State now has a law on the books that targets a 50% reduction of vehicle miles traveled (VMTs) by 2050. State and local governments will be required to enact policy that helps achieve that goal, and there’s no question that a primary policy focus will have to be to discourage growth in low-density outlying regions, while encouraging it in the urban centers. Imagine, for example, a C02 impact fee imposed on low-density development. A fee which is then spent on, let’s say, providing affordable housing in Seattle. Now that would be some potent medicine. […]

  5. 15% Better Than Business As Usual | hugeasscity

    […] And even though King County has jurisdiction over relatively small portion of development in the Puget Sound region, what they are doing is still hugely important because they are the trailblazers. Other jurisdictions, including Seattle, are watching closely and are likely to model their own regulations after King County’s. […]

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    […] another potential threat to the tunnel is the legislation championed by Governor Gregoire that mandates a 50 percent reduction in vehicle miles traveled […]

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    […] system fits future Seattle? What investments should we make now to transition to a future with 50 percent fewer vehicle-miles traveled by 2050 to reduce the emissions that cause climate change, as mandated by the State? Can we even afford a […]

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    […] of greenhouse gas emissions, and we know that reducing vehicle miles traveled—as mandated by State law—is a huge challenge.  What’s not as evident to many is that this does not have to be a […]

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    […] took a few billion away from freeway projects and pumped it into transit? Which, given the VMT reduction goals codified in Washington State law, is just the sort of strategy one might assume the State would be […]

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