Tempers flare at Inslee's climate workgroup meeting

bshannon@theolympian.comDecember 7, 2013 

Tempers flared at Friday’s meeting of Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate workgroup as Republican lawmakers questioned whether Washington should be endorsing carbon-reduction actions without knowing how much they cost taxpayers or kill jobs.

Inslee, a Democrat, outlined five ideas, including a cap on carbon emissions, that he said could help the state reduce greenhouse-gas emissions linked to global warming. A consultant’s report says the state will fall short of meeting goals for reducing emissions by 2020 without action.

But as Inslee pressed members of the workgroup on whether they want to forge ahead with an action plan for the 2014 Legislature, Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen and Republican Rep. Shelly Short both argued that his question was premature.

And they noted that the workgroup isn’t supposed to vote on options until after next Friday’s public hearing in Olympia, which is scheduled to explore options that the state could take.

“What I really resent, governor, is you intimating that we don’t care,” Short said during a heated back-and-forth discussion with Inslee and two Democrats on the panel.

As emotions rose, Inslee called a brief recess to let the participants cool off. But the partisan disagreement concerning the state’s path appears to be deep.

Asked later whether the panel would be able to agree on anything, Inslee said: “That remains to be seen.”

The meeting of the Climate Legislative Executive Workgroup eventually reconvened, but for only a few minutes. In a compromise, the four participating lawmakers on the panel and Inslee agreed to send in their climate policy ideas by Monday.

That will give committee staffers time to prepare a briefing for the 2 p.m. hearing Dec. 13 at the O’Brien Building on the Capitol Campus. The hearing is to learn what the public thinks the state should do to reduce its share of greenhouse gas emissions, and the committee is supposed to draft its legislative recommendations during a Dec. 18 meeting, also in Olympia.

Short and Ericksen both said later that they think the committee can still move forward and make recommendations to the Legislature. But they are unwilling to support options without first knowing what the cost might be.

They also made clear they want to go slower than Inslee does, and one option for the committee is to continue its work next year in the form of a task force.

The partisan dust-up, which appeared to catch everyone by surprise, came as the committee enters the final stretch of its effort, begun in May, to identify how close Washington is to meeting its carbon-emission targets for 2020, 2030 and 2050. Those targets were set by the Legislature as goals in 2008, and the workgroup’s consultants say the state won’t meet any of them.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com theolympian.com/politics-blog theolympian.com/state-workers @bradshannon2

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