Politics blog

Showtime film on climate change puts Gov. Inslee in favorable activist light

OlympianMay 14, 2014 

Gov. Jay Inslee


The nine-part Showtime series “Years of Living Dangerously” began airing in April. A segment looking at efforts by Gov. Jay Inslee to enact state policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington aired this week. 

In the 58-minute piece, Inslee comes off as a man with eyes open wide to climate change dangers and strongly motivated to do something about it.  That is in sharp contrast to his Republican counterpart, Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey, who is portrayed in the episode as not interested in talking about climate change despite having to rebuild his state from Hurricane Sandy’s devastation in October 2012.

“As far as a TV documentary I thought it was very well done. They spent a lot of time with the governor,” Inslee spokesman David Postman said Wednesday, having gone with Inslee to attend a Tuesday night screening hosted by the Washington Environmental Council in Seattle. “The governor said after (that) he was impressed by the production of it … He thought it was put together well.’’

If they quibbled at all, it was that portrayal of the split between labor and environmentalists over coal export proposals at Longview and Cherry Point us deeper than Inslee and environmentalists think is there. Inslee, a Democrat, campaigned in 2012 on using alternative energy as a driver of job creation, and both labor and environmental support were keys to his victory.

The Years documentary project is running Monday evenings at 8 p.m.  The episode featuring Inslee is being rerun during the week - after which it can be seen via Showtime on Demand or purchased later in the year as a DVD.  The series has a star-studded cast in different episodes including Harrison Ford, and it is produced by big film industry names – including David Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Weintraub – and “60 Minutes” veterans David Gelber and Joel Bach

The film shows Inslee in his first year of office as he worked with aides to pass a bill in 2013 that set up a panel to study options for meeting greenhouse gas-emission goals set by the state Legislature in 2007. Inslee is shown at the Governor's Mansion answering questions from celebrity interviewer Olivia Munn [credits include “The Newsroom”] or to ride his bike on picturesque Bainbridge Island. 

As the film accurately notes, Inslee’s Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup [known as CLEW] ended in a partisan stalemate last December. Inslee and Democrats on the panel favored a cap-and-trade proposal to limit emissions and put a price on carbon pollutants as well as seek a cleaner fuel mix for vehicles. But Republicans on the panel – whose skeptical positions are not as well explained in the film – opposed such caps and preferred looking for other alternatives such as nuclear power and expanding hydro production.

The film ends with Inslee pretty much hemmed in politically by the Republican-led Senate but unrepentant in his fight against climate change. And it ends before the governor issued his executive order last month to set up a task force to study what kind of cap and trade system that might work for Washington. 

Republican state Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale chairs the Senate energy committee that watered down Inslee’s CLEW legislation by removing references to “climate change” or “ocean acidification” and taking away Inslee's tie-breaking vote on policy recommendations. As one of two GOP members of CLEW, Ericksen also balked at Inslee's executive order on grounds the governor should have kept working with lawmakers.

Asked about the film, Ericksen said he didn’t subscribe to Showtime: “I have not seen it and I can’t say I have any plans to watch it.’’

But Ericksen said climate issues and Inslee’s executive order still have his attention. He plans a June 17 hearing in his Senate committee in Spokane to consider the safety of oil trains and a late September hearing in Tri-Cities to evaluate Inslee’s executive order on climate.

“Inslee wants to talk about carbon. I want to talk about new affordable energy we can put on the grid. In theory those two things should be compatible,” Ericksen said. “He basically wants to get me in a wrestling move to say I agree with him on climate change.’’

Postman said the governor is moving ahead on climate policies. “We’re continuing to push to make it happen. There is certainly no conclusion in that it can’t happen,” he said. “There is building interest in doing something.”

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