Republicans balk at Gov. Inslee’s $626M climate package4 min read
At a recent press conference touting his $626.5 million climate change policy package for the 2021-2023 biennium, an animated Gov. Jay Inslee held forth on the dangers posed by warming temperatures and the need for bold action in addressing that challenge. He also called for the creation of a new climate change office.
Inslee’s enthusiasm for a new state-level office to help implement climate change-related legislation, as well as his overall approach to the issue, is not shared by members of the state GOP.
“I’m proposing the establishment of an Office of Climate Commitment Accountability to align and strengthen our laws and to make sure our overburdened communities who now live with the impacts of pollution and air they breathe can be treated fairly,” Inslee said at the Monday morning press conference. “One of the most important aspects of it is to make sure that the – that this office assures that all of our agencies embed the climate change mission, particularly in the development of their budgets.”
He went on to say, “So, these agencies come to the governor with proposals for their budgets. We want this office to make sure they assure the agencies embed this mission statement, in the agencies’ mission statement. Every single state agency has activities that are associated with climate.”
“So, all of these agencies can have a climate function,” Inslee said. “This office is designed to make sure they fulfill it.”
Republican Rep. Ed Orcutt, ranking member on the House Finance Committee, said he thought the state Department of Ecology was already doing the job of taking on climate change.
“So why the creation of a new office?” he asked.
Orcutt pointed to House Bill 1168 as a more practical response to climate change. It was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Inslee this year, and will devote $125 million over the next two years toward wildfire response and prevention.
The bill will let the state Department of Natural Resources hire 100 additional firefighters outside of fire seasons. They will also help perform forest health treatments, such as thinning small trees and clearing brush, which helps prevent fires from spreading and can stop them from burning as intensely.
“We should focus on that for carbon reductions rather than a new office,” Orcutt said, explaining that fewer and less-intense fires mean fewer trees lost to those blazes, which translates into more carbon sequestration.
Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing, securing, and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The idea is to stabilize carbon so it doesn’t cause the atmosphere to warm. About a quarter of global carbon emissions are captured by plant-rich landscapes such as forests, grasslands, and rangelands.
“I think this will give us the biggest bang for the buck,” Orcutt said.
Orcutt’s doubts about a new climate office mirrored the general skepticism expressed by other Republicans toward Inslee’s proposed programs to cut carbon from buildings, transportation, and energy production.
“The governor’s proposal to decarbonize buildings, to get rid of the natural gas industry, and retain workers whose jobs would be eliminated from his policies would do nothing to reduce deadly, destructive wildfires and the smoke they emit,” said Rep. Mary Dye, ranking Republican on the House Environmental and Energy Committee, in a press release responding to Inslee’s climate proposals for the 2022 legislative session. “The governor’s proposal to spend millions of dollars in rebates for electric vehicle purchases would do nothing to prevent flooding or address drought that threatens our farmers. The governor’s proposal to electrify ferries fails to address cleanup of Puget Sound from wastewater spills that damage those oyster beds. Where are his proposals to address the top concerns he mentioned at the beginning of the press conference?”
Washington State Republican Party Chair Caleb Heimlich was even more blunt in his assessment of the governor’s climate plans for next year. He called out ongoing difficulties from the state Department of Transportation’s October loss of more than 400 employees due to Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees.
“Gov. Inslee is most concerned with raising taxes on the middle class workers of Washington state and wasting those tax dollars on his pet projects,” he said in an email. “We don’t need more state-funded electric car chargers. We need tax relief and a government that functions: ferries that run on time and mountain passes that are not covered in snow.”
The 60-day 2022 legislative session starts on Jan. 10.
This article was originally posted on Republicans balk at Gov. Inslee’s $626M climate package