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Bill on greenhouse gas emissions passes

by Angelica Relente, Herald Legislative Writer
| February 24, 2021 1:00 AM

Local legislators voiced concern about a bill tackling climate change as the measure passed the Washington House of Representatives in a 56-40 vote during a virtual floor debate Tuesday.

House Bill 1050 would create regulations and requirements for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fluorinated gases, according to the bill’s text.

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, is HB 1050’s primary sponsor. Fitzgibbon said during the virtual floor debate there are safer alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons, which are industrial chemicals typically used as refrigerants or propellants.

In 2019, the legislature passed a bill that addressed hydrofluorocarbons, Fitzgibbon said. Since then, many other states also took the same step in addressing it.

“(This bill) is a very powerful step we can take today to help protect our climate,” Fitzgibbon said. “This is a chance for us to bend the curve on those emissions in a really positive way.”

One of the things HB 1050 would permit is for the state Department of Ecology to create a threshold for hydrofluorocarbons when used for air conditioning and refrigeration purposes, according to the bill’s text.

Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, voted against HB 1050. Dye said during the virtual floor debate food processing facilities, storage facilities and distribution centers are still recovering from the effects of the statewide shutdown.

Dye said the 2019 legislation already paved a path to address climate issues — there is no need to create an inspection service within the state Department of Ecology at this time, as it will give companies fear of regulatory requirements they need to meet.

“Let (companies) have time to absorb the changes that we’ve already made in this state before adding one more economic hardship on our food industry,” Dye said.

Rep. Alex Ramel, D-Bellingham, said during the virtual floor debate HB 1050 is a meaningful opportunity for legislators to make a difference in climate issues. There are no additional costs that come with the bill.

Rep. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, voted against HB 1050. Ybarra said during the virtual floor debate the reporting component of the bill is a “big cost.” When he worked for a public utility district, he spent 80 hours a year reporting data on gas used for circuit breakers.

“There’s definitely cost, because I’ve done it,” Ybarra said.

Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, voted against HB 1050. Dent said during the virtual floor debate legislators should put some “real thought” on how they change the cooling process for facilities in the state.

Dent said eastern Washington is known for its french fries, which need to be frozen before shipment. More regulations may make things more challenging.

Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, said during the debate drastic changes will occur if the legislature does not address climate change with bills like HB 1050. Peterson is also co-sponsoring HB 1050.

“I think it’s imperative that we support this bill to take on climate change and to support our agricultural industry not only for the near future but for the distant future as well,” Peterson said.

In its morning session, the House also passed: HB 1090 (in a 76-21 vote), HB 1276 (97-0), HB 1302 (97-0), HB 1221 (61-36) and HB 1378 (96-0). The House bills will move to the respective Senate committees.