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Washington State's Environmental Justice Cap-and-Invest Solution is a Win-Win

Published: October 25, 2021 by Editorial Team

Washington State’s Cap-and-Invest bill provides a smart and meaningful solution to address environmental justice concerns while also allowing the use of carbon offsets to partially meet compliance obligations. In other states, these concerns have been allowed to set an overly simplistic and false dichotomy: offsets or not. Washington’s legislation provides a refreshing and model solution.

There are two elements of the legislation that are noteworthy solutions to environmental justice challenges in cap-and-trade systems. The first is the caveat that offset usage limits may be reduced for a specific entity if it is deemed to be substantively contributing to air pollution in a community identified as overburdened by pollution. The legislation calls for the establishment of air monitoring networks these communities and an environmental justice council to participate in reviewing these entities.

The second solution is the call out for offset projects on federally recognized Tribal land. Offsets from these projects do not contribute to the 5% and 4% offset usage limits for the first and second compliance periods, respectively, but represent an additional 3% and 2% for each of those periods.

In addition to these two rules, at least 35% of program revenues must be spent on vulnerable populations within areas identified as overburdened by pollution and an additional 10% spent on projects support by Tribes.

Environmental justice and carbon offsets do not need to be fundamentally at odds and Washington State has provided a model blueprint of solutions.


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