NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Fracking now banned in Washington; Jay Inslee drops support for dirty gas projects

Washington State has said no to the environmentally destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it has become more popularly known.

Legislation signed yesterday by Governor Jay Inslee prohibits fracking in Washington State indefinitely. Although the harmful technique has not yet been used for gas exploration and extraction in Washington, it has elsewhere — as documented by Josh Fox in his Gasland documentaries. Thanks to Senate Bill 5145, fossil fuel companies won’t be able to do any fracking here.

“We are charged with preserving our environment for future generations; it is a cornerstone of our state’s identity,” said prime sponsor Jesse Salomon (D-32nd District: Shoreline, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace).

“While fracking is not currently done in Washington, it is important that we acted preventatively here,” Salomon explained. “If the use of fracking were to be established, oil companies and lobbyists would make it very hard to curtail.”

In addition to signing Senate Bill 5145, Governor Jay Inslee announced that he is withdrawing his support for two natural gas projects. The first is a proposed methanol plant in Kalama and the second is an LNG plant in Tacoma.

NPI opposes both projects and is pleased that Governor Inslee has recognized that building more fossil fuel infrastructure is the wrong choice for Washington.

The governor issued a lengthy statement explaining his change of heart.

We’ve always leaned on science to guide our efforts on climate change and the science is increasingly clear.

The accelerating threat of climate change and the emerging science on the damaging impacts of natural gas production and distribution mean we must focus our full efforts on developing clean, renewable and fossil-fuel free energy sources.

Being committed now to one hundred percent clean electricity and signing a bill prohibiting fracking in Washington state, we want to be consistent to that spirit of progress.

I cannot in good conscience support continued construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in Tacoma or a methanol production facility in Kalama.

In the early days of both projects, I said they could help reduce emissions as we transition to cleaner energy sources, but I am no longer convinced that locking in these multidecadal infrastructure projects are sufficient to accomplishing what’s necessary. Science is continuing to emerge regarding the dwindling window for action and the significant methane leakage associated with gas production, and we don’t have the luxury of a fifty-year transition phase.

The impacts of climate change are already coming to bear and scientists are saying that unless we reduce emissions by half over the next decade, we will reach an irreversible tipping point. There are emerging technologies that could make renewable gas a viable source of energy.

I want to be clear that my stance on these projects does not change our state’s regulatory process. As is the case with any project, our state agencies will comply with state and federal laws to ensure a rigorous and objective review of projects.

Decisions on permit applications must also be made in accordance with state and federal law. But it’s time for us to modernize and update the ways we weigh the costs and benefits of all fossil fuels, including natural gas. I’ll be working with agency directors in the coming weeks to discuss the way forward.

The age of consequences is upon us. We have to act based on clear science. Washington is embracing a clean energy future and the clean, healthy, sustainable jobs and benefits that come with it. We should be confident in our ability to build our clean energy economy while sustaining record economic growth and record numbers of good-paying construction and building jobs.

Kudos to Governor Inslee for rethinking his position on these projects. A true climate leader needs to walk their talk. Inslee’s backing of these projects has long  puzzled us and caused others to question his ability to lead on fighting pollution.

Inslee’s critics will no doubt say that he changed his position because he is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination as a candidate zealously focused on fighting pollution. And that probably factored into his thinking.

But, as his statement says, the latest science tells us that we do not have the luxury of a long, drawn out incremental transition away from fossil fuels anymore. That opportunity has already been squandered. To protect the Earth, our common home, we need a bolder and more imaginative energy strategy.

All continents, all oceans, and all nations are affected by climate damage. Exporting fossil fuels to be burned elsewhere doesn’t make pollution somebody else’s problem, because we all share the same planet. It’s a huge mistake for us to be building more fossil fuel infrastructure when we know that our whole world needs clean energy. That’s why these projects should be canceled.

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One Comment

  1. This is a great article. I am glad to see fracking operations get shut down. I hate seeing the effects it has on global warming.

    # by Aurora Jones :: May 9th, 2019 at 6:30 PM