SEATTLE — More than 500 people packed into a waterfront convention center on a foggy Wednesday night to tell Governor Inslee and other lawmakers what they think the state needs to do to reduce green house gas emissions.
Ideas ranged from improving public transportation to instituting policies and incentives fostering clean technology companies and alternative energy sources.
There were two big through lines in the 93 testimonies that were given during the three-hour hearing.
Putting a price on carbon
Again and again, people took the microphone and asked the politicians before them to “stay strong” and put a price on carbon by putting a carbon tax or a cap and trade system in place.
Lars Johansson is co-chair of the Northwest Energy Angels, a group of clean tech investors. He said a price on carbon was critical and that the fact that carbon emissions are “free” is a “market-disturbing policy”. He called for clear policy that would create a predictable demand for clean energy technology.
Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker was a co-sponsor of the climate legislation and was on hand to hear public comments. When asked how he was going to get a carbon tax or cap and trade system passed in the state senate he acknowledged that it was going to be very difficult, “but the reality is we don’t have a choice, we’ve got to act. So frankly if we can’t do it in the senate then take it to the people.”
Considering fossil fuel export proposals
The other theme that ran throughout the evening was the issue of fossil fuel exports in the Northwest. There are currently three proposed coal export facilities in Washington and Oregon and 10 places considering the construction of oil train terminals. Washington’s refineries are already taking oil from the booming Bakken oil fields of North Dakota and the Alberta tar sands. Several people who testified at the event said that the emissions from those fossil fuel exports undermine any state-wide efforts to reduce emissions.
Carlo Voli, an environmental activist with Seattle350 and Rising Tide Seattle said, “It would be like somebody trying to end their addiction to drugs while still dealing drugs to other parts of the world.”
After the hearing, Governor Inslee answered a few questions:
AHEARN: What are you hearing? What are your takeaways?
GOVERNOR INSLEE: I am so inspired by what I’ve heard, both in Spokane and in Seattle because I’ve heard overwhelming sentiment of people who really want us to take bold action. They want us to be confident. They want us to trust in the innovative capability of our entrepreneurs and it was just an overwhelming sentiment of people wanting common sense action that will trust our business people’s ability to create the technologies we need, so that huge consensus was quite inspiring.
AHEARN: I heard a lot about a price on carbon, a carbon tax, will a carbon tax pass? Will a price on carbon either as a cap or as a tax, is that feasible?
GOVERNOR INSLEE: Well having some restraint on carbon is extremely important, either a cap or some measurable ways to put a price, we heard over and over. And particularly from the business community we had venture capitalists who were investing in clean energy talking about the necessity of a predictable demand for clean energy technology. But I also heard it’s not the silver bullet. We have to have a multiple-pronged approach to this including an approach on reducing carbon pollution from our transportation fuels. So there’s no silver bullet, there’s green buckshot, we gotta do all of it.
AHEARN: Last question: the guy that was saying what about the fossil fuel exports, what about the oil trains, what about the coal trains? How can you even factor that into a climate action plan for this state when that coal and that oil is coming from elsewhere?
GOVERNOR INSLEE: The first thing people have to understand is in our assessment of carbon pollution we take into consideration the carbon pollution generated by the coal that produces our electricity so when we’re getting coal fired electricity from Montana we’re figuring that under our tent.
AHEARN: But what about the coal we send to China?
GOVERNOR INSLEE: In our environmental impact statement we are insisting, and I have insisted, that our Department of Ecology evaluate the carbon pollution that would come from the coal if we were to ship it to China and the reason for that is that that carbon pollution ends up in our water. It doesn’t matter where it’s burned it ends up in Puget Sound so we’re going to insist on assuring we take that into consideration.
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