Earlier today, Gov. Jay Inslee testified in the House Environmental Committee on behalf of his "request bill" to create a framework for meeting the legislature's 2008 green house gas reduction goals. His plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, and 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035.
Specifically, the bill allows Gov. Inslee to contract an independent organization to evaluate emission reduction plans from other states and countries to find the best plan for Washington State, he says. With the data, a working group of senators, representatives, the governor himself, plus a member of the executive branch, would submit a plan by the end of 2013 to achieve the goals.
“I believe we should be optimistic we can whip climate change," Inslee said enthusiastically. "I believe we should be confident that we can solve ocean acidification, and I think we should be resolute that we can grow our economy at the same time," he concluded, focusing his remarks both on the scary local impacts of climate change and (Al Gore-style) simultaneously on the potential for green energy entrepreneurs.
Rep. Liz Pike (R-18, Camas) responded to Inslee’s rah-rah pitch with concern for small businesses. “I can see you’re passionate about climate change." [“And jobs!” Inslee interjected].
She went on: "We already have some of the toughest environmental regulations in the country, I think. Over the past year I’ve heard from thousands of small business people across that state that say please no more regulations. I have two questions for you. Do you foresee the final product of this work group to result in more rules for businesses? How can you assure me more rules and regulations from this work group wont hurt small businesses in Washington?” she asked. (We have a call in to Pike trying to get more specifics.)
"The Senate committee removed the language that climate change is real. The House version of the bill will come out of the House with those things intact."- Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon
Gov. Inslee responded, “If we don’t act, small business are going to get hurt. There is a cost of inaction.” Trying to get past some of Inlee's sweeping rhetoric, we followed up with his staff. Inslee's spokeswoman Jaime Smith told us Inslee “was referencing the impacts that not only directly affect businesses like Taylor Shellfish [affected by ocean acidification], but the ripple effect that losing business like that will have on affected communities.”
Bill Dewey, a spokesperson from Taylor Shellfish Farms, testified in support of the bill. "I’m a glass three quarters full kind of person so I tend to look at this as an opportunity rather than a threat. As you heard today there are business who don’t share my [...] optimism and worry about the potential adverse impacts to their businesses. Taylor Shellfish Farms believes [the legislation] can potentially save businesses money, stimulate the economy and allow us the achieve the greenhouse gas emission targets."
While creating a work group and hiring and outside organization to assess solutions will run the state approximately $350,000, Inslee noted, “The potential economic cost of climate change is $10 billion dollars by 2020,” a much more daunting figure. (Inslee's staff told us they'd get us a cite for the $10 billion figure tomorrow, but the governor is likely referring to a 2012 report by the state's Department of Ecology that quantifies the annual of cost of: rising health care prices, storm damage, coastal destruction, rising energy expenses, increased wildfires, drought (what is this Passover dinner?), and related plagues.
Inslee, environmental groups, and house Democrats hope that the house version will redeem a weaker version that the Republican-dominated senate passed out of committee last month.
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) said the “senate bill made the governor a non-voting member, gave the Republicans veto power and the senate committee removed the language that climate change is real. The house version of the bill will come out of the house with those things intact."
Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40, Orcas Island), the prime sponsor of the bill in the senate, was disspointed that the bill's original intent was removed. "It’s absolutely critical that we not only recognize that there’s climate change impacts, but that we do something about it."
When asked whether he prefered the house version to the senate version, he replied, "I like the governor’s original bill that began the process. If that means the house bill, that’s great. "