OLYMPIA — Washington state lawmakers have passed legislation that will align the timber and forestry sector with the state’s carbon emission goals.
The Senate voted 46-3 March 5 in favor of passing House Bill 2528, which would recognize the amount of carbon that trees absorb from the atmosphere and allow that amount to be accounted for after the potential implementation of a carbon emission tax. The House passed the measure in January in a 95-0 vote.
Cindy Mitchell, senior director of public affairs for Washington Forest Protection Association, said this law will help recognize the role forests — both public and private — play in reducing atmospheric carbon. Mitchell said the state’s 8 million privately owned acres of working forests account for a 12-percent annual reduction of the state’s carbon emissions.
The bill not only gives the timber and forestry industry a competitive edge against other carbon-emitting industries after implementation of a carbon fee, but it would also recognize the sector as one that reduces atmospheric carbon. And it directs the state Department of Commerce to promote timber and forestry products.
“There’s a longstanding presumption that timber harvesting and environmental protection are mutually exclusive, but the truth is just the opposite,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, via a written statement.
“By aligning timber practices and cycles with the state’s carbon reduction goals, we can boost our rural economies and improve our environmental health at the same time.”
The bill will return to the House for concurrence with amendments made in the Senate before it makes its way to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.