When Governor Jay Inslee joined some Washington college student leaders yesterday afternoon to discuss state support for higher education at Seattle's Institute for Systems Biology, the conversation quickly rotated to climate change. Inslee has proposed taxing carbon emissions from this state's biggest polluters—along with a small capital gains tax—to generate more funding for education, including affordable college tuition.
The alternative source of funding would come from cutting money from social services, Inslee said.
A couple of students also brought up their universities' fossil fuel divestment efforts; Seattle University student president Eric Sype asked how the governor might encourage such policies.
"I can use the bully pulpit to address things like climate change," Inslee said, though he wasn't sure whether the state could actually mandate laws that prohibit investment in fossil fuels. But will Governor Inslee use his bully pulpit to address the fact that the Port of Seattle plans to host Shell's Arctic drilling fleet, perhaps the world's most extreme fossil fuel project on the docket?
Cornered by The Stranger while he was grabbing coffee, Inslee said he'd already directed the Department of Ecology to look into it and came up with squat.
Now he's glad that the city's getting involved:
"I know the city is now becoming more engaged in that to require the port to have much more public input in that decision. I think that's appropriate. We at a state level, I asked our Department of Ecology to look at that and we really didn't have any permitting authority to alter what's going on there right now. So it's largely a port issue as opposed to a statewide one. But I'm glad that the city is becoming involved to require further public input. Climate change is the existential issue... I've got to move, I've got to get ready."
Unfortunately the governor was whisked away to his next event before I could ask him whether he would also use his bully pulpit to write to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who's expected to issue a decision on Arctic drilling as early as March 23. If locals are able to stop Shell from mooring in Seattle, the hope is that the precedent could help define outcomes on a national or even global level.
But now at least we know that the governor is paying attention. Perhaps he'll elaborate more if someone asks him about it during his Reddit AMA this coming Thursday at 1 p.m.