Gov. Jay Inslee urged a legislative committee on Tuesday to take quick action to authorize an independent review of the state’s options for reducing carbon pollution.
“We’re sitting here with this big avalanche coming down on us,” the governor said in comments that emphasized the emergency he thinks the world is facing. “We need to move.”
In his testimony on House Bill 1915 before the House Environment Committee, Inslee framed Washington as a state with the right mix of entrepreneurship, technological know-how and innovative talent to emerge as the global leader in the clean-energy field.
Inslee also testified last month in the Senate on a similar proposal to invite the Legislature’s four caucuses to join him in a working group that can hire a consultant and consider what might be the state’s best, most cost effective strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But this time the skepticism of some Republican members of the committee came through more clearly.
Rep. Shelly Short, ranking Republican on the Environment Committee, asked Inslee about China’s heavy use of coal that arguably cancels out U.S. efforts to reduce emissions.
“What if all the great work we do in Washington is overshadowed by a country that emits eight times the CO2 that we do,” Short asked without mentioning China by name.
The governor replied that just as a person would not toss litter out a car window because he knows others will litter, Washington’s response is based in personal responsibility — a theme that on other topics has resonance for the GOP.
“We are all going to embrace some personal responsibility on this or our responsibility to our children and grandchildren is going to be severely compromised,’’ Inslee said.
In an interview after the hearing, Short said she has an amendment ready that would copy the changes that Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, already made to Inslee’s proposal, Senate Bill 5802, in the other chamber.
Ericksen, chairman of the Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, removed language explaining the environmental threat to Washington posed by climate change and the related phenomenon of ocean acidification, which is interfering with the ability of oyster larvae to form shells. He said Monday he removed that language because he did not want scientific “absolutes” in the bill.
Short said she doesn’t see the harm in establishing a work group but she does not agree with Inslee that the science is settled on human-influenced climate change.
“I wouldn’t agree that the science is in. But here’s the deal though: There is impact as a result of ocean acidification. There is impact on our water supplies. I think what we need to do is spend time thinking about how we help our state adapt to that versus who is at fault,” said Short.