The issue that has dominated environmental discussions in Washington state during the past year is the proposal to create a new shipping terminal in Whatcom County to ship coal and other goods to the Pacific Rim. The emotional debate has led to a number of strange arguments and ironies. Here are a few that stick out.
Groups With a Strong Financial Interest Attacking Others for Having a Financial Interest
There has been a great deal of talk about the severe impacts of the federal budget cuts associated with the so-called "sequester." The Obama Administration claims if the sequester takes effect it risks "$3.3 million to help ensure clean water and air, and to prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste." Cuts could include projects such as:
The City of Seattle's Office of Sustainability and Environment has released what has to be the most embarassing government video ever produced. Considering the Department of Ecology and Puget Sound Partnership's dog poop rap video is also out there, this is saying something.
The video, titled "We're So Green," has a message about as complex as a Taylor Swift song. With lines like "We are Seattle and we're leading the change," to call the video self-absorbed doesn't seem to go far enough.
Yesterday, Governor Jay Inslee released one element of his climate strategy, creating a "climate and legislative work group." The legislation calls for an analysis of a range of strategies to reduce carbon emissions. That analysis would be used by legislators to develop a final strategy.
Last week the House Environment Committee in Olympia considered HB 1294 which would ban a certain type of flame-retardant compound and create a process for identifying alternatives. Supporters of the legislation argue this will get us off the "toxic treadmill" of moving from one risky compound to the next.
Tomorrow, the House Environment Committee will consider HB 1294, the latest ban on flame-retardant compounds. The bill would ban a compound called Tris and would give the Department of Ecology the authority to ban future flame-retardants "unless a manufacturer demonstrates that there is not a technically feasible safer alternative to the flame retardant."
The Department of Health explains that Washington state law limits the amount of thimerosal "as a precaution." In other words, the state is ignoring the science in favor of an amorphous standard of "precaution." What is the result of that precaution? Selecky’s agency goes on to explain:
We don't have much natural gas in Washington state, but the impacts of the boom in natural gas production are certainly being felt here with lower prices. The low cost has also caused natural gas to replace coal in many parts of the country, causing a steep decline in nationwide carbon emissions.
In his inaugural address today, Governor Inslee highlighted the need to reduce the risk of climate change from carbon emissions. He specifically emphasized the need to "replace rhetoric with quantifiable results." This is critical. Washington politicians have been heavy on rhetoric the past several years and the results have been poor.
As activists opposing biotechnology crops and genetically modified foods, known as GMOs, were turning in signatures for their new labeling initiative, another anti-GMO activist was giving a speech about his past activism. The speech, however, doesn't begin as you might predict:
As the governor and legislature debate various environmental proposals for 2013, here is one fact they should keep in mind: many of the State of Washington's climate policies waste about 99 percent of the money spent to cut carbon emissions. Even those policies that perform better than that standard are only slightly better, missing huge opportunities to reduce carbon emissions.
Pointing to a recent television news story, the House Democrats yesterday touted the Washington state law requiring that school buildings meet "green" building standards, claiming "taxpayers pay less for electricity every month." There are several problems with this claim, however, and stubborn support for this failed law despite the evidence has resulted in less money for schools, an actual increase in energy use and more environmental damage.
The Seattle Times recently featured a story on climate change with a sub-headline that declared "Scientists analyzing the effects of climate change say they are surprised to see how much winter has already changed and the cascade of effects that unleashes, from outbreaks of pests and diseases to fewer days of skiing."
A report in the USA Today found that "green" schools in other states don't actually perform as promised. The report, "Green Schools: Long on promise, short on delivery," gave this example from the Houston Independent School District: