NewsTrucking Regulation

New crop of Democrats ready to toughen environmental rules


Political analysts say that the presidential campaign of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee will focus on climate policy in the transportation, manufacturing, and energy sectors, which could affect the way goods move across the country.

Inslee is part of a green wave surging across the Democratic Party, some of whom were swept into office amid a surge of discontent with the existing establishment. But whether or not their plan to limit pollution through regulation and taxation will succeed in a divided government remains up in the air.

As Governor, Inslee has overseen legislation to spur government investment and private research in climate related fields. He’s backed a state Clean Air Rule to reduce air and water pollution. He’s also increased incentives for zero-emission vehicle sales. Inslee currently sits as co-chair to the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of states formed in response to the U.S. leaving the Paris climate agreement.

“Now is the time to join together in action and put a price on carbon pollution,” Inslee wrote in a policy brief. “Doing so will allow us to reinvest in all the things that drive down emissions…and by doing these things we can save our forests. We can help rural economies. We can protect our waterways.”

But Inslee isn’t the only would-be U.S. president who is advocating for changes to the country’s regulatory structure. Senator Elizabeth Warren is also exploring a presidential campaign. Like Governor Inslee, Mrs. Warren has an extensive record of climate-focused advocacy.

“Climate change is a clear and present danger for our planet,” Warren said in a 2018 campaign video. “It’s also a looming disaster for our economy. And if we make corporations and their investors recognize that fact, we could see some serious change.”

On Thursday, the 116th Congress will begin its 2019 session with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. The Democratic platform for the 2018 midterm elections, A Better Deal for Our Democracy, included proposals for legislation that would reduce carbon emissions in the United States through increasing regulations on polluters ranging from manufacturers to the freight industry.

As the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats will chair the House’s legislative committees where bills are initially drafted and revised. One of these organizations is the House Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation, which will be chaired by Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon. Representative DeFazio has publicly backed legislation that would block or roll back the Trump Administration’s environmental deregulation.

However, the Republican Party remains the majority party in the U.S. Senate and is unlikely to endorse additional taxation, subsidization, or regulation of American industry.

It’s also unclear whether Americans will respond to the Democratic Party’s push for stronger environmental regulations. CNN reported that 41 percent of surveyed 2018 midterm voters named health care as the most important issue facing the country. Other pressing issues included immigration, the economy, and gun policy. Climate change didn’t make the list.

And voters in the Midterm elections voted down ballot initiatives that would have advanced climate-related policies. In Governor Inslee’s home state of Washington, Initiative 1631, which would have placed a $15 tax on each metric ton of carbon emissions and increase by $2 annually, failed by a vote count of 43 percent to 57 percent.

Initiative 1631 was the third attempt by Washington under Inslee’s leadership to pass a carbon tax. A previous ballot initiative to impose a revenue neutral $12 per-ton tax on carbon failed in November 2016. In March 2018, an attempt by the state legislature to pass a carbon pricing tax also failed when it did not receive majority support in the state senate.

Washington State produced 75.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2015, 1.44 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions and a decrease of 7.5 tonnes from the year 2000.

Colorado also saw the failure of Proposition 112 which would have banned oil wells within 2,500 feet of occupied buildings. The State’s outgoing Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper publicly opposed Proposition 112 on the grounds that it would halve Colorado’s oil industry. Incoming Democratic Governor Jared Polis also opposed the ban. Both Colorado and Washington State have Democratic-controlled executive and legislative branches.