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Governor Gregoire’s Climate Recommendations Welcome, Quick Action On Transportation Needed

 by Kathleen Ridihalgh, Senior Regional Representative

Governor Gregoire released the recommendations from the Climate Advisory Team, which map the myriad steps Washington needs to take to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The steps outlined in the report will, if acted upon quickly, reduce our state’s climate pollution emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The report can be reviewed at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/CATdocs/122107_1_recommendations.pdf.

“This is a great baseline for what we can do to tackle this vital problem,” said Michael O’Brien, Chair of the Cascade Chapter for the Sierra Club. “We applaud the Governor for her leadership in bringing this task force together and the seriousness with which she is taking their recommendations.”

In particular, the recommendations outline 12 overarching areas where solutions need to be created. To the Sierra Club, two areas are crucial right now: a market-driven carbon cap and reductions in auto emissions.

“With pollution from our cars being the largest chunk of the problem the biggest bang for our buck is to invest in our communities and our transit system to give people alternatives to driving alone everywhere,” said Tim Gould, Chair of the Cascade Chapter’s Transportation Committee. “As we prepare to invest billions of dollars into the 520 bridge rebuild, a design that helps reduce that pollution is absolutely imperative.”

The Sierra Club supports tolling the 520 and I-90 bridges with “variable pricing,” which will reduce congestion and pollution, as well as provide much-needed funds for transit investments. Pricing the bridges according to traffic volume that varies by time of day will inform drivers’ choices as to when they make trips. Under a variable pricing scheme, off-peak drivers would pay a less expensive toll. The bridges should be priced to maintain free-flowing traffic, thereby reducing congestion and pollution emissions. In addition, general vehicle capacity should not be expanded – which would be counter to the global warming goals – and high capacity transit should be prioritized.

The Sierra Club supports the CAT Transportation ‘most promising’ recommendations:

  • New Funding Mechanisms
  • Transit, Ridesharing, and Commuter Choice Programs
  • State, Regional, and Local VMT Reduction Goals and Standards (T-2)
  • Transportation Pricing (T-3)
  • Promotion of Compact and Transit-Oriented Development (T-4)
  • Improvements to Freight Railroads and Intercity Passenger Railroads (T-6).
  • Promotion and Incentives for Improved Community Planning and Improved Building Design and Construction in the Private and Non-State Public Sectors

In addition, the Sierra Club is closely watching the “Western Climate Initiative”, a collection of states and Canadian provinces developing a market-based carbon trading system. The recommendations of the CAT are laying the groundwork for the WCI process, which plans to release its plan in August.

Washington State can take the lead on the fight against global warming and reach our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. If we all take steps together—in our homes, neighborhoods, and the state capitol—we can tackle the challenge of global warming. By making smarter energy and transportation choices, we can also save money, create jobs, reduce air and water pollution and improve the health of our families. Let’s seize this moment and work together as citizens, community leaders, businesses and families. Let’s make Washington State a COOL state!

 For more information about the Cascade Chapter and the Cool State campaign, visit news.

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 The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. For the latest news, please visit http://www.sierraclub.org/pressroom/