Rivers opposes three environmental protection bills

State senator votes against plastic bag ban, as well as bills for ‘clean cars’ and 'carbon farming'

Less than two weeks into the Washington State Legislature’s 60-day 2020 session, which runs from Jan. 13 to March 12. Senator Ann Rivers, the Republican representing Camas-Washougal voters in the state’s 18th Legislative District, has voted “no” on three environmental protection bills.

All three bills passed the Senate along party lines, with mostly Democrats voting “yes” and mostly Republicans voting “no.”

Rivers voted “no” on the following:

The “bag ban” bill (SB 5323): Aimed at reducing plastic-bag pollution, this bill would ban stores from issuing single-use plastic bags to customers, and would require retailers collect 8 cents per bag for every bag — paper or plastic that meet strict recycled-content requirements — customers request. The bill passed 30-19 on Jan. 15, with 90 percent of Republican state senators voting against the bill and 96 percent of Democratic state senators voting in favor of the bill. SB 5323 was referred to the House Environment and Energy Committee on Jan. 16.

Rivers said she cast a “reluctant yes” vote on this bill in 2019 because she saw the mandatory 8-cent bag charge as “overreaching by the government.”

In the interim, Rivers said she learned that “8 cents is noticeably more than it costs to make a bag.”

“Combine that with listening to the many constituents who told me (during the interim) they don’t like the bill — and I became a ‘no,'” Rivers told the Post-Record this week.

The second bill Rivers voted “nay” to was the “clean cars” bill (SB 5811). This bill passed the Senate 26-23 on Jan. 15, with 100 percent of state Republican senators voting against it. The bill aims to help reduce emissions by making changes to the state’s clean-car program. The bill would authorize the state’s Department of Ecology to adopt California’s zero-emission vehicle program regulations and bring more zero-emissions vehicles into Washington. SB 5811 was referred to the House Environment and Energy Committee on Jan. 16.

“This bill would have our state follow California on vehicle emissions standards more than we already do. We all want clean air, but I’ve done enough research on California’s broader approach to carbon reduction to be hesitant,” Rivers said. “California’s experience seems to be that (low-carbon fuel standards) reduces emissions at much higher economic costs than the state’s cap-and-trade program. That in turn has adverse effects on households, especially low-income people. In that sense it’s better to learn from California instead of automatically mimicking it.”

Rivers said she thinks the free market can do a better job than government when it comes to supplying more zero-emissions cars.

“As more consumers want zero-emission vehicles the marketplace will respond,” Rivers said.

The third bill Rivers voted “nay” on Jan. 15 was the “carbon farming” bill (SB 5947). This bill, which passed the Senate on Jan. 15 by a vote of 32-17, had bipartisan support in 2019, and Rivers voted “yes” on the bill in March 2019.

The bill is designed to decrease carbon emissions in Washington’s agriculture sector by creating a grant program to help farmers and ranchers adopt practices that would reduce carbon emissions, rely on more sustainable farming practices and add new trees to help absorb carbon in the atmosphere.

“Before the recent vote on this bill, I learned from one of the sponsors that during the interim both the bill and the sponsor’s name had been used for fundraising purposes by a group outside of the Legislature,” Rivers said. “I know that happens but it doesn’t mean I want my name used in a way I don’t authorize, the way this particular sponsor’s was. Changing my vote to ‘no’ didn’t keep the bill from passing the Senate … and it’s harder now for my position to be misrepresented or used for financial gain by an outside group.”

SB 5947 was referred to the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Jan 16.

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