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With oil refineries in the background, Inslee urges action on climate change bills

By Robert Mittendorf, The Bellingham Herald
Published: March 30, 2021, 7:32pm

BELLINGHAM – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee promoted two bills advancing through the Legislature that would address the increasing effects of climate change while adding family-wage jobs.

In a speech at a waterfront park in Anacortes – in sight of two oil refineries – Inslee called climate change an urgent, existential, human-caused threat.

“We feel that urgency in places like Fidalgo Bay, where climate change has led to warming waters and the destruction of wildlife habitats central to the life and culture of all who live here,” Inslee said in prepared remarks.

“Climate change is not some nebulous concept here; it is having clear impacts, right now, on Washingtonians’ way of life. If we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clean the air; if we invest in a job-creating green energy economy; and if we follow the science of climate change, we can preserve our way of life and the prosperity that comes with it for generations to come,” Inslee said.

Inslee urged the passage of House Bill 1091 and Senate Bill 5126.

House Bill 1091, which has passed in the House and introduced in the Senate, is Inslee’s low-carbon fuel standard proposal aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuel to 10% below 2017 levels by 2028 and doubling that reduction by 2035.

The conservative Washington Policy Center opposes the bill, saying online that it finds about 95 percent of the cost of a low-carbon fuel standard mandate does nothing to reduce CO2 emissions, and the risk from climate change and the high cost undermines alternatives that would effectively reduce CO2 emissions in the near term at much lower cost.

Senate Bill 5126, the so-called “Climate Commitment Act,” would cap greenhouse gas emissions for some industries and set up a program for those industries to comply with the cap via greenhouse gas credits. It’s been introduced in the Senate.

Becky Kelley, the governor’s senior policy adviser for climate, said the Senate measure would help the state move toward climate goals set by the legislature in 2008. “These bills are needed to help get us there,” Kelley said in an interview with McClatchy. “They deliver the pollution reduction.”

The bill is supported by environmental groups, as well as BP, operator of the state’s largest oil refinery.

Michelle Simmons of Silfab Solar in Bellingham said she’s optimistic for a green economy.

“Clean energy is creating jobs right here, right now, in the Pacific Northwest,” she said.

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Sheet Metal Workers also attended the press conference to show support for the legislation.

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Matthew Hepner of Bellingham, executive director of the Certified Electrical Workers of Washington, said the bills will kick-start job creation. “The climate is definitely changing and we have to adapt to it,” he said at the press conference. “(These bills) will renew an economy that we’re missing out in. We need that market engine to spur economic growth.”

Rep. Alex Ramel, D-Bellingham, said labor’s support is important because it shows refinery workers that there is a future for them in a green economy.

“In the past, it’s been difficult for those folks to see themselves as part of a clean energy future,” Ramel told McClatchy. “It gives them a chance to be leaders and innovators.”

Inslee welcomed labor’s support. “We have enlightened leaders in the union movement (who) understand where these jobs can be,” he said.

“We have the opportunity to do in Washington state what we’ve done in software and online retailing.”

He urged Washington residents to ask their legislators to support both bills.

“We hope people share their sentiments that this is a state worth fighting for,” Inslee said.

Steve Edwards, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, said climate change has threatened all species of Pacific salmon, a fish that’s steeped in the culture of the indigenous Coast Salish people and critical to the existence of Samish Sea orcas. “Salmon sustains us physically, mentally and spiritually,” Edwards said at the press conference. “If we do not act on this, our children are going to inherit a planet much different from the one we inhabit today.”