Washington State MP Mary Dye this week unveiled a new outdoor recreation plan that prioritizes revenue from the recently passed Climate Commitment Act.
Dye’s Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation, or ORCA plan, would abolish the state Discovery Pass, lower state park fees, raise funds for new parks, and address the growing backlog in park maintenance, and a variety of healthy forest initiatives and the restoration of the Puget Sound pay projects.
The plan “focuses on the realities we face today and provides a better quality of life for all citizens,” said Dye.
The legislature narrowly approved the Climate Protection Act at the beginning of the year. Governor Jay Inslee described it as “the most important environmental piece of legislation in our state for the past 50 years”.
The law will cap statewide greenhouse gas emissions from 2023. It also lowers the cap over time and creates an auction system to sell emission allowances to large greenhouse gas producers such as fuel distributors, refineries and electricity suppliers.
The auction system is expected to raise approximately $ 4.4 billion over a 10 year period. Much of the money is earmarked for unspecified transport-related emission reduction projects. Another 25 percent will flow into a new climate investment account to help disadvantaged communities and set up new systems to monitor air quality.
Dye, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives’ environment and energy committee, said much of the spending outlined in the Climate Commitment Act is vague and offers minimal benefits to most citizens.
She believes the ORCA plan takes a more practical approach to using the money.
“Let’s use these dollars wisely and focus on practical recreational and environmental needs,” she said.
Admittedly, Dye is not a fan of the Climate Protection Act. She sees it as just another top-down climate mandate from the governorship and believes it will do little more than drive up energy bills across the state.
Still, after the law is signed, she is looking for ways to re-prioritize the spending plan and address issues that affect citizens and communities across the country.
For example, she noted that a small percentage of the Climate Commitment Act’s funding was earmarked for things like forest health projects or restoration work on Puget Sound.
In contrast, the ORCA plan would provide a dedicated source of funding for the state’s Forest Health Action Plan, which is needed to reduce the risk of catastrophic forest fires – a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Similarly, it would provide a nationwide source of funding to improve inadequate municipal sewage treatment systems that are contributing to the deterioration of Puget Sound.
“These are big, expensive projects, but right now we expect the (local) fee payers to take this into account,” said Dye. “We need a different model. We have to say that Puget Sound is a national good, a treasury, and as a state we have to invest in infrastructure improvements (which benefit water quality). “
In terms of outdoor recreation, Dye noted that Washington State Park’s system has essentially stagnated since 1990, with almost no new campgrounds or facilities added, despite the state’s population increasing 57 percent.
The ORCA plan would provide funding for new facilities, she said, and help address the growing backlog of unfunded parking maintenance needs.
“I’m working on ways to be effective in a blue state,” said Dye.
She hopes to put legislation in place by the 2022 meeting, which begins January 10, to implement the ORCA plan.
However, she expects opposition from the governor and other Democrats who believe that the money from the Climate Change Act should best be spent on emission reduction projects.
“The question is, is that a good allocation of those funds?” Dye said. “We (Republicans) feel that there are better options.”