FILE — Seattle Ferry

The Washington state ferry boat "Cathlamet" sails with Mount Rainier in the background, Wednesday, July 16, 2014, near Seattle.

(The Center Square) — Gov. Jay Inslee wants Washingtonians traveling in greener vehicles and burning less carbon over the next two years under a $427 million plan to fight climate change.

The governor's climate plan includes $230 million for electrifying buses, ferries, and new charging stations for electric vehicles. Inslee's office says this will save the state $14 million in ferry operating costs and mitigate noises harmful to local Puget Sound orcas.

Each new electric ferry would create 560 new jobs and cut more than 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide (C02) per year, based on estimates from Inslee's office.

Another $100 million would be divided up among seven renewable infrastructure projects such as renewable bio-fertilizer for dairy farms, clean energy research, and solar power grids.

In 2019, more than 85,000 people in the state were employed in the renewable energy sector, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs.

The business group reported that around 17,000 jobs in the sector were lost in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the U.S. will add 17,400 new wind and solar power jobs by 2026. It anticipates oil, gas, and mining will add more than 28,900 jobs by then.

Although Washington derives 90% of its energy from renewables, five crude oil refineries still call it home, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports.

Inslee's plan would advance his years-long efforts to make renewable energy the state's primary energy source.

Under his proposal, new buildings would have to be carbon neutral by 2030 while existing buildings must ween themselves off of fossil fuels by 2050. Cities such as Seattle have proposed measures with similar aspirations.

To meet that goal, Inslee wants $12.6 million for The Climate Commitment Act whose regulatory program tracks state agencies' carbon emission reductions.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported global net CO2 emissions have to fall by around 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching "net zero" around 2050.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the world burned about 46 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2010 or 35% more than in 1990.

Washington burned around 97.6 million metric tons of C02 in 2016 and has seen that number trickle up, according to the state's Department of Ecology.

“By acting on these climate policies and investments, we will put our state on a path consistent with science and with equity,” Inslee said. “Our deeds will rise to what the climate crisis now demands — bold, transformative action that builds a prosperous future for all.” 

The spending package represents the second wave of the governor's budget proposals for the 2021-2023 biennium which Inslee unveiled during a Tuesday press conference. 

Inslee's plan drew praise from local environmentalist groups far and wide.

Jesse Piedfort, director of the Washington state chapter of the Sierra Club, called Inslee's green package "one of the strongest state-level clean buildings packages in the nation.”

Inslee has backed two statewide taxes on carbon emissions which Washington voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2016 and 2018.

Another carbon tax measure is in the works and has until December 31 to gather 259,000 signatures to make the November 2021 ballot.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.