Opinion-editorial by Rep. Liz Pike: Legislative involvement, not executive order, is most effective way to enact climate policies
As an organic farmer in Fern Prairie, I share the same concerns about a clean and healthy environment as citizens all across our state. At my farm, we raise most of the food we consume, including grass-fed lamb, turkey and fryers, eggs produced by free-range hens, and organic berries, fruits and vegetables. I recognize the importance of a clean Washington with renewable energy and a sustainable economy.
Finding the right balance between economic growth and environmental protection can be complicated, especially when policies are based primarily on scientific theories. This is especially true when it comes to the issues of climate change and global warming.
That's why the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW) was created last year through legislation at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee. Consisting of Republican and Democratic legislators in the House and Senate, and Gov. Inslee, CLEW was charged with reviewing and recommending policies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington. An important part of CLEW's work was to determine any impact new policies would have on the economy, and especially on individuals, employers and families.
Unfortunately, Gov. Inslee has appeared to abandon CLEW for what seems to be a more lopsided process that excludes state lawmakers – the very people who must decide on legislation.
Under Executive Order 14-04 Inslee authored and signed on April 29, the governor created a new Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force to apparently replace the open legislative process. He also included a series of directives that seek to “establish a cap on carbon pollution emissions, with binding requirements to meet our statutory emission limits.”
The governor's executive order takes two pages to assert climate change as absolute fact and warns of severe consequences unless actions are taken. Despite assertions that a consensus of scientific opinion has settled this issue on global warming or climate change and its causes, these remain opinions and theories. Science is never truly settled. It is a process with evolving theories. The absolute fact is that no one can say with certainty the degree to which climate change is happening, how harmful it may be, or how it may or may not be affected by human activity.
What we can say with certainty is that the path likely to do the most harm involves the politicization of science. Championing certain science for political gains and ignoring science that conflicts with those political views is most likely to yield bad policy and worse outcomes. I am concerned the governor's executive order may lead our state down this path, as he continues to assert what he believes is a foregone conclusion.
The best way to avoid politicization of science is by open exchanges, discussions and debates of policy choices through various public forums, such as the Legislature, in which data can be gathered and studied to determine optimal policy. Experts and members of the public may come before elected officials, air their views, present their findings, and leave it to legislators to come up with carefully considered law. While this may not be perfect, this deliberative process is the best method in a democratic republic.
It is common for governors to be frustrated by this process. The very fact that Gov. Inslee abandoned CLEW for his own hand-picked task force is a good indicator of his frustration. However, it takes time to craft complicated policy. We have a method for adopting laws, and it involves either the initiative process, whereby the people can vote on their own changes, or the Legislature, which writes laws after full consideration, input from the public, and debate. These processes should never be circumvented for political expediency.
Setting climate or energy policy through rule-by-decree rather than through our legislative process may be tempting in the short term, but it is likely to only further politicize the science, alienate an already-skeptical public, entrench and embolden the ideologues, increase acrimony and divide us even more in the long run. It invites litigation and can precipitate a constitutional crisis at a time when we need to come together, not retreat into our own ideological groups.
We all want a clean, healthy Washington. Regardless of your viewpoint on climate change, the best way to reach lasting policies for our state is to set aside preconceived ideas and work together through a bipartisan, transparent legislative process with fresh eyes and open minds. I invite the governor to join us in that effort.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, is the assistant ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee and served as an alternate member on the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup. She represents the 18th Legislative District. For more information about Rep. Pike, visit: www.representativelizpike.com.