Level the playing field for Washington manufacturers
For years, Washington state has imposed increasingly stringent environmental regulations on manufacturers, producers and those doing business in our state.
As the state has mandated that Washington companies “get green,” businesses have spent millions of dollars in researching and development new technologies, upgrading facilities and buying carbon offsets. They've been at the forefront of new innovations in clean water recycling, storm water regulation and clean energy use.
Yet, despite having some of the most affordable and abundant hydro power in the nation, ample land and infrastructure, and an educated workforce, our state has not come close to reaching our potential for attracting family-wage jobs in our industrial sectors.
Could it be that our overzealous regulations have created a situation where companies in Washington just can't compete with the rest of the world?
How's this for an example.
At a recent public hearing in the House Environment Committee, we heard testimony about a new public building being built with concrete and steel from China. Having ample knowledge about how the industrial processes in that country pollute much of the region, not to mention the human rights issues surrounding their workforce, we found this to be interesting. When it was discovered that the new building was being built just blocks away from one of the nation's most environmentally-friendly concrete plants, the issue went from interesting to maddening.
We were told it's cheaper to buy concrete and steel from China and have it shipped thousands of miles, than it is to buy it from a Washington supplier just two blocks away.
This defies common sense. We cannot lecture in-state companies on carbon emissions and green energy on one hand, while buying loads of it from dirty out-of-state manufacturers with the other.
If the state is truly concerned with our carbon footprint, we should be utilizing the greenest products and manufacturing processes out there instead of buying from China, India or Turkey. Some of the products and materials from these out-of-state producers have a carbon footprint over a thousand times worse than locally sourced materials.
We introduced legislation last week to help rectify this situation.
House Bill 2194 is bipartisan legislation which seeks to help local manufacturers and producers by holding the state accountable for both its environmental regulations and for its out-of-state purchases of construction materials.
Our bill requires certain reporting measures for state building projects over 5,000 square feet that use out-of-state materials, including.
- Where the materials came from;
- The reason to use materials from out of state;
- A cost comparison of the materials used against the same materials if obtained in the state;
- Gross estimated carbon emissions, including transportation of the materials to the state;
- The estimated difference in carbon usage if the product was obtained within the state, including transportation;
- What the determining factors for using out-of-state materials were, including labor, business and occupation taxes, energy use for transportation, and clean air credit purchasing; and
- The percent of the total building that was made with out-of-state materials.
We've suspected that our environmental regulations make it nearly impossible to compete with companies from out of state. This legislation will show exactly why, where and how we're lacking.
Before we can fix the problem, we have to clearly identify it and have the information in place to affect the change we need to keep and attract more family-wage jobs to our region.
(Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is the ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee. Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, is the assistant ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee and prime sponsor of HB 2194)