Gov. Jay Inslee will unveil the details of his latest carbon-reduction plan on Tuesday. This proposal to the Legislature would tax carbon and use some of the revenue to help fund schools.
OLYMPIA — On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to unveil the fine print of his latest plan to reduce carbon pollution in Washington.
The governor’s yearslong push for climate-change legislation has met resistance in the state Legislature — which begins its 2018 session Monday — and in the courts.
In an interview with The Seattle Times last week, Inslee discussed his new carbon plan, which would tax carbon and use some of the revenue to help fund K-12 education. He also discussed the Trump administration and open government at the Legislature.
Inslee’s remarks have been edited for clarity and space.
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Q: What makes you optimistic that your carbon legislation — which stalled in recent legislative sessions — can pass this time?
A: We’ve come a million miles in the last few years on this subject. So, there’s a challenge, but it’s also a huge economic opportunity. We’re finding that we can grow clean-energy jobs by the bushelful around the state of Washington. We want those jobs here. Not just in China, not just in British Columbia, not just in California. And so it’s an economic opportunity as much as it is a health and environmental challenge.
Q: What can you tell us about your latest carbon-pricing plan?
A: We have much broader groups that really want to put their shoulder to the wheel, including important business interests. Who, from a business perspective, recognize this as an opportunity and a recognition that we have to solve this challenge. We will find businesses next week who will basically be supportive of action on a carbon-pricing system.
Q: Do you mean businesses that will be regulated under the plan?
A: Yes, to some degree. Not everyone, because we’re effectively excluding energy-intensive trade-exposed industries. We’re shielding the impact for some of our energy-intensive industries.
Q: Some people want carbon-pricing revenue to go into education, others to only clean-energy development, others still to offset the increased regulations. Is that a stumbling block to a deal, and would you change your position on where the money goes?
A: Obviously, my bill’s not the only bill that can be helpful to the state of Washington. So, I’m clearly willing to work with people to figure out the right investment strategy for these things. But … you can’t get the … carbon savings if you don’t make investments in the things that will grow clean-energy jobs and help clean-energy companies and help people put insulation in their homes and people get access to solar panels and electric cars.
Q: Last week, the Trump administration rescinded Justice Department policies allowing state-sanctioned marijuana markets to flourish and gave the green light to oil and gas drilling off the West Coast. What’s it like when you hear about these decisions? Do you get any advance notice?
A: What is it like living in the Trump administration? A mixture of a funhouse mirror and a really bad TV soap opera. When I’m shaving, I’m listening to NPR, frankly. So I’m getting national, local news through NPR. If there’s some emergency, usually [Chief of Staff] David Postman is calling me.
Q: Your office sends formal letters communicating with the Trump administration. But what are your other lines of communication, like with federal officials?
A: I spoke to [White House Chief of Staff] John Kelly when he was head of Homeland Security, about the Dreamers [young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children]. In fact that’s one of the reasons I’m so disappointed, because we were led to believe there was not going to be a challenge about the Dreamers.
I spoke most recently to the ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] director, in part about some of the concerns that came out of the case down in [Pacific County, where an undocumented immigrant who spoke to the media was taken into custody by ICE]. So, yes, we do have communication, there’s no shutdown.
But, we’ve also been stiffed in ways that I consider really unprofessional and disrespectful. [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions wandered off because he had a bee in his bonnet about marijuana and never talked to the governors who have actually done it [implemented new marijuana policy]. We’ve asked repeatedly to meet with Mr. Sessions to share with him our experience.
Q: News organizations, including The Seattle Times, are challenging in court the Washington Legislature’s exemption allowing lawmakers to shield their emails, calendars and other documents from the public. Should the lawmakers be subject to the same transparency laws as your office?
A: What I would advise legislators is that we have found a way to do that and not unnecessarily diminish our ability to be effective. And I think they probably can do the same thing.