Washington Gov. Jay Inslee testified before his ex-colleagues on Capitol Hill on Tuesday about the climate-change agenda that he has made the sole plank of his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — drawing attacks from Republicans.
Appearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Inslee said he’s “bullish” about a transition to a clean-energy economy, while warning of the devastating consequences of failing to address global warming. He slammed the Trump administration for reversing clean-power and fuel-economy standards.
Republicans on the panel responded with varying degrees of skepticism and hostility over Inslee’s calls to transition away from fossil fuels, with some mocking electric cars and wind turbines as fantasy solutions.
Several fixated on nuclear power as a key clean-power option, with Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, quizzing Inslee on why he didn’t mention it in his seven-page opening testimony.
“I didn’t know because I didn’t write it, so I will have to ask my staff that question,” Inslee said, before saying that he supports research into whether nuclear-power plants can overcome obstacles such as cost and how to dispose of radioactive waste.
Inslee got a frosty reception from the only fellow Washingtonian on the panel, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, who sought to goad him on how he got to Washington, D.C.
“Out of curiosity, I just wanted to ask you how you traveled here and what the carbon footprint was associated with that travel and if you had laid out specific steps to offset that impact?” McMorris Rodgers asked.
Inslee responded: “I traveled here the same way everyone on this committee traveled here, on an airplane.” He said his “offset” was working on a clean-power transition for the state and nation, calling it “the most tremendous offset of anything I have ever done in my entire life.”
McMorris Rodgers also asked Inslee whether he’d reimburse state taxpayers for the costs of his State Patrol security detail while campaigning for president. As he has previously done, Inslee declined to offer reimbursement, saying he is following the law.
Some coal-state Republicans went after Inslee on his calls to end fossil-fuel-based power by 2045. Legislation to set that deadline in Washington state is moving through the Legislature. The governor at times was cut off when he tried to respond, with one Republican declaring he didn’t want to hear “an anti-coal diatribe.”
Inslee did not back down on his anti-coal stance. “Coal is just a scientific fact that is very difficult …” he said. “If we burn all of the coal we have, we will not have anything that looks like the way we live today.”
Near the end of Inslee’s appearance, he was attacked by Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Montana, over Washington’s plans to end coal-fired-power imports into the state.
Gianforte pointed to his state’s Colstrip coal plant, which he said faces the loss of 3,300 jobs as a result of its largest owner, Puget Sound Energy, phasing out the power.
“Those are devastating impacts of your policy,” Gianforte said, also slamming Inslee for opposing a coal-export facility in Washington.
“Governor, I would invite you to come to Colstrip, Montana, with me to meet the people whose livelihoods you are extinguishing — you have my open invitation,” he said.
Inslee responded: “And I would invite you to come meet the people who are having trouble breathing because of coal-fired electricity pollution. These are the children of the state of Washington and the people whose houses are burning down. We both have constituents. All of them deserve our respect and attention, and I think if we work together we can help them all.”
Gianforte said he’d take that as a “no you won’t meet with the people of Colestrip. I think that’s unfortunate.”
“I am happy to discuss this with you further,” Inslee said as the exchange ended.