Washington State: Emerging Cleantech Leader

By Eric Viola, WCTA Public Policy Analyst

May 29, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – An audience of industry leaders sat captivated as Keith Phillips and Dennis McLerran discussed environmental policy at the WCTA’s second talk in its Climate Series co-sponsored by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. The event focused on regulatory approaches to dealing with climate change. Two upcoming events took center stage: Governor Inslee’s highly anticipated climate change legislation and the upcoming EPA ruling on carbon emitting power producers. Emphasizing Washington State’s nascent leadership position in combatting climate change, both speakers were very optimistic about the State’s future.

Keith Phillips, Governor Inslee’s Special Assistant on Climate and Energy
Keith Phillips

Keith Phillips, Governor Inslee’s Special Assistant on Climate and Energy, was just as optimistic about the prospects for carbon emissions policy in Washington State. If we follow the science,” he reported, “we have the opportunity to avoid the worst of climate change.” Mr. Phillips revealed several key elements of Governor Inslee’s plan to make the most of that option, not only with regards to the environment, but also with regards to the economy.   In Executive Order 14-04, the Governor’s lauded announcement that he will be assembling comprehensive climate change legislation, Governor Inslee asked State agencies to further leverage investment in clean technology. “We don’t yet have the tools to tackle climate change,” explained Keith Phillips, “but we can develop the tools that the rest of the world will need.” The chance for Washington State to take a leadership role in the clean technology sector mirrors the State’s instrumental role in fostering the burgeoning high technology industry of the early 1990’s, and the Governor has positioned the State to seize that opportunity. An expansion of the Clean Energy Fund is one of many such tools available to the Governor in order to improve the State’s economic standing.

Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator, echoed Mr. Phillips’ emphasis on market tools and the vast economic potential inherent in any environmental legislation. However, opportunities for new technology and innovation aren’t the only issues of interest to the EPA; there is also a potential for economic disaster. “We believe that climate change and carbon pollution are a threat to our economy,” Mr. McLerran explained of the EPA’s upcoming draft rule on section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which will “require each State to put a plan together to put a limit on carbon pollution.” In less than a week, the EPA will reveal its proposed rule requiring States to submit plans for reducing carbon emissions in existing power producers. A year later, the EPA will finalize the rule, giving the EPA ample time to make adjustments and receive useful feedback from the States.

Dennis McLerran, Region 10 Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
Dennis McLerran

The Governor’s chief interest, Mr. Phillips reiterated as he closed his remarks, lies in the long-term; Governor Inslee isn’t focused on just “building a seawall around Manhattan,” but with “making sure that seawall doesn’t have to get any higher.” Washington State’s opportunity to lead the nation in environmental policy while reaping the benefits of a growing clean technology industry is an opportunity Governor Inslee is determined to pursue.

“It’s an unprecedented effort to make those new rules for existing plants flexible,” Mr. McLerrann expounded, “we’ve been listening very hard to the States and the broad range of public and private stakeholders.” The EPA has held numerous listening sessions, closely analyzing the concerns of States and their energy producers in an attempt to craft fair, economically advantageous environmental policy, and intends to propose rules that make use of existing market tools.

“Good things are coming,” he concluded.


Video of the event can be found on YouTube.