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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seattle is the birthplace of Earth Day, celebrated every year on April 22. It is also home to the first national coordinator, Dennis Hayes. For nearly 40 years Earth Day has been a time to appreciate and raise awareness on environmental issues.

The environmental movement’s most basic premise is to ensure the earth, water and air are clean for our basic survival. But these issues are also central to improving the economic security and social opportunity of all. Indeed, global warming, one of the biggest environmental debates is just as much about energy independence and the economy as it is about clean air.

Since last summer we have worked to shape the recommendations of the Western Climate Initiative, a regional program to take action on climate change. Our interest is to ensure people with lower- and moderate-incomes are part of the new energy economy and to make sure these consumers are protected as we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Our analysis and collaborative work in Washington State resulted in Western Climate Initiative recommendations that include protections for low-income people. Legislation introduced by the Governor would have prioritized auction revenue from a “cap and trade” system to protect low-income consumers.

With less than a week left in the session, the Governor’s legislation is still moving, but it’s not as strong as originally proposed. President Obama has made strong climate legislation a signature piece of his budget proposal and legislative action is beginning to heat up in Congress.

There is much discussion about Green Jobs in the context of climate legislation. If done right, an effective climate bill could create jobs for low- and moderate-income people, along with a commitment to energy efficiency. Unfortunately some of the proposals currently under consideration in Washington, DC do not sufficiently address the disproportionately negative financial impact climate change policies will have on lower-income households.

In the coming week, we will be doing a series on our blog on climate to give you information and analysis. The series will cover:

• What’s the impact on low- and moderate-income consumers?
• How can federal policy offset the financial impact on low- and moderate-consumers? What are our options, what works, what doesn’t?
• What are the proposals before Congress?

You can also visit our website and read a joint letter to Governor Gregoire signed by the Budget & Policy Center along with environmental groups, the faith community, low income advocates, and organizations representing communities of color.

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