This past July, Governor Inslee addressed the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. “Climate change is a proven fact,” he said. “Industries are threatening to leave my state because of climate issues like ocean acidification. The worst thing to do about climate change is to ignore it…It has been estimated that climate change will cost Washington state $10 billion by 2020.”
Just three days earlier, the derailment and train fire in Quebec had offered a grim reminder of the immediate risks inherent in oil trains; the longer-term risks, of course, include the political and economic illogic of building massive new fossil fuel export infrastructure precisely when the world needs to shift to clean energy or face catastrophic climate change. Yet two weeks later, the Port of Vancouver Commissioners voted to approve a controversial 380,000 barrel per day Bakken oil terminal to serve trains of fracked North Dakota shale oil that would travel through downtown Vancouver; millions of gallons of oil would be stored on the banks of the already-struggling Columbia River.
Because of the immense size of the project, Governor Inslee has final say: as a national leader in climate and other environmental issues, he must categorically disallow the project. As he said that day, “We need to lead in our region first, and then the nation.”
In the same speech, the Governor pointed out that the next regional power plan “should facilitate and accelerate the transition from coal power and identify the steepest reasonable glide path for making this final transition.” All fossil fuel, as he knows, poses a profound threat to climate stability. The “steepest reasonable glide path” to a carbon-free future cannot possibly be extracting, selling, and transporting as much of this dirty fuel as possible.
In April, he’d said “Washington is in a wonderful, unique position to work with business and industry leaders to develop clean energy policies and investments that will create thousands of jobs and preserve Washington’s outstanding quality of life.”
We agree. Governor Inslee, stand by your words. Show the nation that we will not sell out the health and reputation of one of the nation’s most beautiful, resilient, and innovative regions for the Faustian bargain of a decade’s worth of Port lease payments and a handful of jobs. We can find a better way forward.