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Conservative Activists Sue Gregoire Over Climate Change Order

By Josh Feit July 22, 2010

Apologies if this got a lot of press elsewhere, (I planned to write about it yesterday, but things have been crazy around here lately): The conservative activists at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation are suing Governor Gregoire over her 2009 executive order to enact her climate change bill (which failed in the legislature that year).

The order (and the bill) was an omnibus of guidelines that the state Department of Natural Resources will manage in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In a press release statement, Michael Reitz, director of the EFF's Constitutional Law Center, said:
“We believe Gov. Gregoire’s climate change executive order is an unconstitutional order. Gov. Gregoire violated the doctrine of separation of powers by snatching a failed bill out of the legislative process and issuing it in the form of an executive order. If the governor wants to pass laws, she’s in the wrong branch of government."

EFF's objection echoes the battle at the federal level (which the Democrats won) over the Environmental Protection Agency''s role in enforcing GHG standards. The Republican spin (and EFF's) is that the government shouldn't be able to bypass the legislative process by letting bureaucrats make rules.

Gregoire tried to pass the bill in 2009, but it was routed by business lobbyists who didn't like the bill for the same reason they don't like the executive order: It empowered the Department of Ecology to regulate greenhouse gases. They'd rather fight those battles in the legislature, where, obviously, they usually win.

Cliff Traisman, an environmental lobbyist who lost the legislative fight in 2009, says: "This is an industry that doesn't want to be told what to do. They do not want to be told to reduce emissions."

Gregoire's office is reviewing the lawsuit and seems to think it's frivolous. As for going the executive order route, Gregoire spokesman Viet Shelton says, "our office is confident it's well within her authority to direct state agencies on policy and that's what this order does."

Shelton provided several examples of  "policy directions [in the executive order] not new laws" —
•Develop emission reduction strategies and industry emissions benchmarks to make sure 2020 reduction targets are met.

•Ensure Washington has trees to capture carbon, while creating financial incentives for the forestry industry.

•Work on low-carbon fuel standards or alternative requirements to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.

•Join with neighboring states and the private sector to implement a West Coast highway accessible to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.

•Address rising sea levels and the risks to water supplies.

•Continue to work with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a regional emissions reduction program design.

•Work with the Obama administration to help design a national program that is strong and reflects state priorities.
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