ARLINGTON — Gov. Jay Inslee was in Western Washington on Thursday to celebrate the opening of a new clean-tech facility that will employ 70 people.
Outback Power designs electronics for renewable energy, backup power and mobile applications.
The governor said the company is an example of Washington's commitment to growth in the clean tech and renewable energy sector.
"We're stepping up to the responsibility of addressing climate change and harnessing the economic opportunities offered by clean energy," he told the small crowd that attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. "It's an area where Washington can, is and will lead."
The governor has been a long-time booster for green jobs and clean technology. But during his time in office he will face some difficult decisions about the potential for Washington to become the host of some of the largest fossil fuel export facilities on the West Coast.
The number of trains carrying oil from North Dakota to Washington refineries is increasing, and there are now two large coal export facilities under consideration in the state.
EarthFix's Ashley Ahearn caught up with the governor outside the event to ask him a few questions.
How does the potential of exporting coal and oil through this state fit into your future for economic development in Washington?
Well I think there are certain things that we know for sure and what we know for sure is that we have to maintain and develop new sources of energy. There really is no other choice. We know that if we burn all the coal that we have available to us that some very destructive things are going to happen to our state.
We're seeing some of those things already. We're seeing massive forest fires. We're seeing the oyster industry being damaged because (of) the acidity in Puget Sound and off of our coast. We're seeing changes in our climate that reflect on snowpack so we know we have to and will and are developing new clean energy sources as the wave of the future.
And right here in Arlington, for those who doubt our ability to do that, come talk to these engineers and electricians and manufacturing people that are building this company today. It will give you a dose of optimism. It will give you a dose of confidence that we can get on top of climate change. So it's a great day in Arlington.
But how do you juxtapose that with the potential that Washington could almost be doubling national coal exports during your time as governor?
Well that all remains to be seen. We're in the middle of this permitting process, which will look at the carbon pollution with this coal. We will also be evaluating the broad-based impacts across the state of Washington on our transportation infrastructure, on our health, so we've taken I think the appropriate and legal step to look at the full impacts environmentally of any particular exports and we're going to make sure we get to the bottom of all of those impacts.
And if the decision ends up on your desk ultimately, what happens?
Well we're going to follow the law. That's what we're doing.
This story originally appeared through the EarthFix public media collaboration.