By Paul Gottlieb
Olympic Peninsula News Group
Environmental and timber interests made U-turns this week on a bill giving the state Department of Natural Resources authority to sell carbon credits on state-owned forestland.
Timber interests supported the pared-down ESHB 1789 after previously opposing a more expansive version.
Environmentalists opposed the newest version for not going far enough in employing forest management solutions to climate change after favoring the original measure.
The bill, which passed the House 82-13 and is scheduled for a vote Wednesday in the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee, was reduced in scope, limiting ecosystem projects on public land to aquatic endeavors; restoring damaged forests, or forestation; and establishing new forests, or afforestation. Project goals would include carbon sequestration and storage, air and water filtration, climate stabilization and disturbance mitigation.
The projects, under contracts of up to 125 years, also must result in an increase in revenue to taxing district beneficiaries such as school districts, counties and cities such as Forks, which relies heavily on timber proceeds, as compared to revenue that would exist without the ecosystem service project.
Changes in the final vs. original version reduce the revenue expectations “but revenue impacts remain indeterminate,” according to the fiscal note on the bill at leg.wa.gov.
“Private forest managers that sell carbon credits on both the regulatory and voluntary markets have generated millions of dollars per year through these projects in addition to revenue generated from more traditional businesses lines,” according to the fiscal narrative.