Climate change plan less aggressive

SEATTLE — Recognizing a tough budget situation, the state is planning to pursue a less aggressive plan to curb climate change than many had hoped.

The centerpiece of the plan is a regional cap-and-trade system that would limit the amount of greenhouse gases that industrial polluters emit while allowing them to buy and trade credits so that they can produce more.

But some of the ambitious recommendations put forth by a task force that Gov. Chris Gregoire convened last year likely won’t be pursued when the Legislature convenes next month.

Gregoire last week released a pared-down state budget proposal in response to a projected deficit of nearly $6 billion, with calls for across-the-board cuts in areas such as higher education and human services.

“We’ll do as much as we can within the confines of the budget,” said Tony Usibelli, assistant director of the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development. “That’s the difficulty we’re running up against.”

A report released Monday by several state agencies relies heavily on a regional cap-and-trade program to fight climate change.

Concerned about the bad economy and pressure on businesses, Gregoire is leaning toward giving away most of the pollution credits, rather than auctioning them off as environmentalists had hoped.

The governor’s proposed budget includes about $25 million for climate change, including money to add solar panels to three state prisons, increase the energy efficiency of public buildings and fund anaerobic digesters to reduce waste. There’s also money in the budget to increase vanpools.

The Climate Action Team, which Gregoire convened last year to come up with concrete ways to fight climate change, earlier this month called for more energy-efficient buildings, compact urban development, better collection of recycled materials, reduced driving and revised development rules to account for greenhouse gas emissions.

Janice Adair of the state Department of Ecology said the state won’t pursue some of those recommendations next year, such as giving tax credits to buildings that reduce energy use.

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