OLYMPIA – Republican members of Congress from Eastern Washington think it’s great their Democratic governor is helping to boost foreign trade, but they want him to back off on carbon reduction plans and any efforts that could block new coal terminals.
A spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said their opposition to his efforts to cut carbon pollution isn’t surprising, but they are wrong in implying Inslee has made up his mind on proposals to build new seaports to ship coal to Asia after it has been hauled across the state by rail.
“He hasn’t indicated a position on those, but he has asked for a thorough review,” David Postman said Wednesday.
The letter from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse begins by commending Inslee for a “recognition that international trade is vital to the economic health of our state” and calls for strengthened trade ties, particularly to the Pacific Rim. Dated Wednesday, it comes on the eve of Inslee’s nine-day trade mission to South Korea and Japan but doesn’t specifically mention the trip, which starts Friday.
The letter quickly pivots, however, to criticism of other activities.
“We are very concerned that certain proposals and policies promoted by your administration do not align with pro-growth trade policies,” the representatives write.
Efforts to reduce carbon pollution from energy sources are unnecessary because the state already gets much of its power from low-emission energy like hydroelectric dams. Carbon reduction regulations would be expensive for businesses, commuters and utilities and would “place our job creators at an increased disadvantage compared to both foreign competitors and other states,” they wrote.
“Their opposition to action on carbon is pretty much the standard you hear from industry,” Postman said.
Inslee signed a transportation package with new taxes that would reduce money to mass transit if his administration were to develop new rules on carbon reduction. He has instructed the Ecology Department to explore reduction strategies within current laws. He has also said he will keep asking legislators of both parties to support carbon reduction.
McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse wrote they also were concerned with “potential impediments” to proposed export terminals near Bellingham and Longview, which have been proposed to increase shipments of coal across the Pacific to China and other Asian countries. They cite support for the terminals from farm and business groups and labor unions, although they don’t mention the projects are opposed by environmental groups, some tribes and communities along the rail routes.
The Ecology Department has ordered an extended environmental impact report on the terminals that studies not just the effects on the area surrounding the facilities, which is a standard approach the federal government is taking. The state also wants a report on the impacts of digging it up in Wyoming, transporting it across Washington and other states by train, shipping it to Asia and the increased greenhouse gases from burning it in those countries. The draft report is due later this year.
The governor but hadn’t read the letter Wednesday afternoon because it was faxed to his office after he had left for Pullman for a memorial tribute to late Washington State University President Elson Floyd. McMorris Rodgers also attended that event.
He will eventually see the letter and could reply with a letter of his own or in conversations with the representatives, Postman said.