E-News: Check your energy bill! How does the cap-and-trade law affect you?

LGW rally
As a supporter of the six initiatives submitted to the Legislature this year, I appreciated being able to say a few words Friday to a crowd of others who rallied on the Capitol steps because they feel the same way!

February 25, 2024

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

Tomorrow is Day 50 of this 60-day legislative session, and the deadlines are coming up faster as the end approaches. Our Senate Ways and Means Committee has only through tomorrow to take action on the many House bills that came forward from the Senate policy committees just four days ago; which is why five hours of our Saturday went to conducting public hearings on more than three dozen House bills.

I am grateful to the many residents of our district who took an hour out of their Thursday evening to join me, Representative Waters and Representative Harris at our virtual town hall. The questions were thoughtful and well-informed, and I wish we could have squeezed in more.

The very first question was about the status of my SB 5010, to protect innocent babies and children from being endangered by fentanyl or other synthetic opioids. I’ll give the same answer now that I gave the other night: As expected, the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee did nothing with my bill before the deadline for policy-committee action Wednesday. While I could view my bill as being dead, I am instead continuing to weigh my options. This is where the old saying “no bill is truly dead until the Legislature adjourns” comes into play.

For example, House leaders could basically take the bill away from the committee and bring it straight to the House chamber for a vote. Or I could attach the language in my bill to another bill related to controlled substances that is still moving. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The challenge is figuring out whether there is a logical path for getting my proposal in front of the rank-and-file House Democrats who would support it if given the opportunity.

Because so many of the town-hall questions had to do with energy costs and the voter initiatives, especially I-2117, there wasn’t time to go deep about the operating budget I’ve been working on for the past seven weeks (although we did get thanks for blocking the majority’s proposed property-tax increase).

In a nutshell, the Senate supplemental operating budget would make some modest but meaningful investments aimed at making Washington safer and making things better for the children of our state. It also does as much as is possible this year to hold the line on the cost of living. My statement on the budget, which was passed today with a very strong bipartisan vote, is here.

Now let’s do as we did at the town hall and get to the initiatives – particularly I-2117, to repeal the cap-and-trade law.

cropped Washougal HS gas bill
The “Climate Act Fee” charged to the Washougal School District amounts to more than 20% of the total bill…and this is for just one of the district’s buildings! When schools and other public agencies pay more because of the cap-and-trade law, it’s the taxpayers who actually end up with the bill. The lawmakers who passed the climate law didn’t advertise that.

Cost of Climate Commitment Act goes far beyond the gas pump

Once Washington’s cap-and-trade law took full effect in early 2023, gasoline prices in our state started taking off almost immediately. For many months, the price at the pump was the best way to illustrate the pain families and employers were feeling because of cap-and-trade (officially, the Climate Commitment Act).

Thanks to some NW Natural customers in our 17th District who recently shared their energy bills with me, I’ve been able to call attention to how expensive the cap-and-trade law also is for homeowners, not just vehicle owners. And this week, a conversation with a Washougal School District employee raised a whole new question: How much is cap-and-trade costing our schools, forcing them to ask for more tax dollars? (Hint: It’s not cheap!)

Imagine working hard to operate your facilities with as much energy-efficiency as possible — to save money — only to have your efforts undone by a new “WA Climate Act Fee” line item on your school district’s utility bill! How frustrating is that?

I’m aware of some social-media chatter questioning whether cap-and-trade is truly affecting energy bills – the “I don’t see a fee specified on MY bill so maybe you Republicans are lying” kind of dialogue. Here’s what I recommend, if you are skeptical: contact your utility company and simply ask where they show you are paying something related to the “Climate Commitment Act” — because you certainly are paying, even if your bill doesn’t mention it specifically.

Better yet, also compare your December or January energy bill with the corresponding bill from a year earlier, before the state started auctioning off “carbon allowances” under the Climate Commitment Act. Look at your consumption, then your cost. If I saw a significant increase in the bill without a significant increase in my energy consumption, I’d be suspicious… and on the phone to my energy provider, pronto!

NW Natural is the only utility I know of that is itemizing the cost of cap-and-trade on its bills (and I thank them for that!). Puget Sound Energy, the largest private utility in western Washington, wanted to include the climate-fee information on its bills but was prohibited (yes, I said prohibited) from doing so by our state Utilities and Transportation Commission… on the advice of Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, and on the grounds that the added information would be “confusing.” Huh…the people that are contacting me about their sky-high gas increases don’t seem confused to me… just pretty darned ticked off!

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if other utilities looked at what happened to PSE and were afraid to ask for permission to include the climate-law cost on their bills. If the UTC ruling had such a chilling effect, that would be wrong — people deserve to know how the actions of their government affect them! This is a perfect example!

The lesson from the Washougal School District bill is, it doesn’t matter if you ride a bicycle and walk instead of drive, and power your home with nothing but solar panels. You will still get gouged by the cap-and-trade law, because your property-tax dollars are going to help your school district pay its inflated energy bill! (Side note/reminder: no tripling of your property tax rates this year! We killed that bill❗❗)

Make your voice heard about voter initiatives Tuesday and Wednesday

In case you missed the alert sent Thursday, the leaders of the Democrat majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives have finally responded to the pressure from the public and Republican legislators about considering the initiatives… at least partially.

Although the voters submitted six initiatives to the Legislature, Democrats will hold public hearings this week on only three: Initiative 2111, Initiative 2081 and Initiative 2113. They continue refusing to hold hearings on the initiatives to repeal laws that are about taking your money and giving it to the state: I-2117, I-2109 and I-2124.

To support the initiatives at the hearings sign in as PRO, using the links below. Be sure the button next to the initiative number under “select agenda item” is checked, to display your options — which include submitting written testimony or testifying “live” in person or remotely:

  • Click here to sign in about Initiative 2111 (total ban on income taxes in Washington): public hearing begins at 12:30 p.m. this Tuesday, in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. As a member of this committee I will be in a position to ask questions.
  • Click here to sign in about Initiative 2081 (parental rights concerning their children’s education): public hearing begins at 8 a.m. this Wednesday, in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee.
  • Click here to sign in about Initiative 2113 (restore reasonable police pursuits): public hearing begins at 9 a.m. this Wednesday, in the Senate Law & Justice Committee. I’m also a member of this committee and am looking forward to hearing the people!

Our state constitution does not say to give precedence to half the initiatives and ignore the rest. It says all initiatives should take precedence over any legislation other than budgets. The people of Washington are the sponsors of these initiatives, and they deserve to be heard on all six!

For more detail about the six initiatives click here, and here for information specifically about Initiative 2117. I would absolutely support all of them, given the opportunity, and that position reflects the opinions collected in my recent online survey. Here’s a summary of how participants answered when asked if the initiatives should be approved.

survey results table

Of those responding, 65% believe the Legislature should pass all six initiatives while we are in session. The opposite approach – don’t pass any and instead place them all on the November ballot – was chosen by 22%. A hybrid approach, meaning pass some now and let some go to the ballot, was chosen by 13%.

Strongly Support Initiatives


Seven Wilson bills remain on track in House

SB 5906, my “One Pill Kills” legislation, received a public hearing Friday in the House Appropriations Committee, which (like Senate Ways and Means) has through tomorrow to move bills forward. It is scheduled for a vote tomorrow in that committee, as are my SB 5836, which would add a 12th seat to the Clark County Superior Court bench, and SB 6263, which would double the funeral benefit for firefighters covered by pre-1970 pensions.

Four more of my bills in the House have received policy-committee approval and now are before the committee that selects legislation for the House voting calendar:

  • SB 6291 would start reforming how the State Building Code Council does business. The House local-government committee passed it Tuesday.
  • SB 6234 would support screening of newborns for BCKDK… “branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase kinase deficiency” relating to possible early detection of autism. The House Health Care and Wellness Committee approved it Wednesday.
  • SB 5590, to create a Mount St. Helens special license plate, was endorsed by the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday.
  • SB 5835, my “plain talk” bill, requiring all agencies to explain their new rules in 100 words in plain language, was endorsed by the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee on Tuesday.

This week’s Senate pages: A pair of Bars!

Bar siblings

It’s been my privilege to sponsor a lot of students as legislative pages over the years, including siblings in different years, but never have I sponsored a brother and sister in the same week: Olivia and David Bar, who are ninth-graders at Camas High School and the twin children of Alan and Kristi Bar of Camas. It was an absolute delight to get to know them, and I was so impressed with their thoughtfulness and interest in what happens at their state Capitol!


I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government. Have an amazing day!

Yours in service,

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