Governor Inslee speaks prior to signing five environmental bills
Governor Jay Inslee speaks at the signing of five landmark environmental bills (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “Fracking now banned in Washington; Jay Inslee drops support for dirty gas projects”

  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.

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