After he based his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for president on fighting climate change, one might assume Jay Inslee would be the darling of all environmental warriors.
Even after his August exit, his green cred might have been enhanced by one of the front-runners, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, saying Inslee had the right idea, and adopting his climate change plan.
Not all climate warriors are happy with Inslee, however.
Protectors of the Salish Sea, which describes itself as “an indigenous environmental advocacy group,” have been holding daily demonstrations on the Capitol campus for almost two weeks. Their main goal is to stop the construction of a liquefied natural gas facility in Tacoma. To do that, they want Inslee to declare a “climate emergency.”
Unfortunately for the group, even though Inslee is on the record as saying climate change presents an existential threat to the world, there is no authority in state law to declare climate emergency.
State law allows for an emergency declaration for a riot, a disaster, an energy supply shortage or a plant infestation by bugs. There is also a provision for a public health emergency, but that’s for a specific disease, like measles or Ebola, said Tara Lee, Inslee’s acting communications director.
Asked for proof that Inslee had such power, Paul Wagner, a spokesman for the group, initially said, “We know it’s there.”
When pressed for some sort of citation or statutory reference to bolster that claim, Wagner replied that Inslee “can do what he needs to do.” If that means he steps outside the boundaries a bit, Inslee should issue an executive order stopping all fossil fuel projects and let people take him to court, he added.
Which would certainly happen, probably before the ink on the executive order was dry. It would be a very short court hearing, however, because the first question the judge would ask would be the statutory authority for that order, and when Inslee couldn’t cite one, it also would be the last question asked.
Protectors of the Salish Sea invited Inslee to speak at noon to their Saturday gathering on the Capitol campus, but it appears they did about as much research on the invitation as they did on the legal authority for a climate emergency declaration. Inslee was scheduled to be out of the state in the morning and speaking to a labor convention in Seattle in the afternoon.
Told that Inslee wasn’t going to be around to deliver a noon speech, Wagner countered they could accommodate him later: “We’ll be here until 6.”
But Inslee was scheduled to be at his home on Bainbridge Island after his speech in Seattle, Lee said.
Clear head, sad heart
Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst announced last week she will step down from the bench at the start of 2020. Facing her third bout with cancer, Fairhurst has been working while undergoing chemotherapy, but said it was time focus on her health.
“It is with a clear head and a sad heart that I have made the decision that it is time for me to leave the court,” she said in her announcement.
When she delivered her State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Legislature last January, Fairhurst urged lawmakers and state executives to get to work because no one knows how many days they have to make a difference. It was at that point that she revealed her cancer was back.
“I still believe in miracles,” she said. “As Albert Einstein said, ‘There’s only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ … Let’s not waste the days we have.”
Fairhurst, 62, is a Gonzaga Law School graduate and former president of the state bar association who was first elected to the court in 2002. Inslee will appoint a replacement justice who will face an election next year. The court will select a chief justice.