Inslee invokes Churchill as he rolls out climate legislation

Source: Benjamin Storrow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) unveiled an ambitious package of climate legislation yesterday, aiming to revive efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Evergreen State after a series of major policy defeats earlier this year.

The legislation calls for eliminating fossil fuels from the state’s power sector, boosting electric vehicles and adopting enhanced building codes, among other measures. Taken together, the moves would cut Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions by 16 million tons, enough to satisfy a state law calling for a 25 percent emissions reduction by 2035.

“This will be the steepest and swiftest reduction of greenhouse gases that we have ever seen,” Inslee said at a press conference announcing the plan. “These policies will work together to get us to the 2035 emission targets that are in law.”

The proposal followed the defeat of a carbon tax in the Legislature and at the ballot box this year. Inslee championed the idea in both venues, only to see it fail.

It also comes as the governor positions himself for a potential presidential run in 2020. He’s the current chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, a post often used to further the ambitions of states’ chief executives, and he recently established a federal political action committee.

While Inslee has long advocated climate action, he has precious little to show for his advocacy. A plan to cap emissions from the state’s largest polluters has been hung up in court, and Republican lawmakers blocked an attempt to impose a low-carbon fuel standard.

That would change if the governor succeeds in passing his package of environmental bills.

The proposal contains provisions aimed at addressing every sector of the state’s economy, including a call for generating 100 percent of Washington’s electricity from carbon-free resources by 2045; a proposal to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons, a class of powerful greenhouse gases used in air conditioning; plans to retrofit old buildings and establish enhanced energy efficiency standards for new ones; a proposal to implement a low-carbon fuel standard on transportation fuels; and an effort to boost electric vehicles.

Inslee will have expanded Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to work with come January, boosting the odds of the proposals’ passage. In a question-and-answer session with journalists, the governor acknowledged that the plan was based on policies that have garnered public support elsewhere.

Responding to questions about the lack of a carbon tax, he said, “It wasn’t the initiative or this package. This is a big leap for Washington.”

Inslee mixed Winston Churchill into his remarks, saying the world’s climate challenge is not unlike the predicament Allied forces found themselves facing during the darkest days of World War II.

“There is no other option than victory, because without victory, there is not survival,” Inslee said. “If that sounds apocalyptic, then look at the science.”