Exclusive: Gov. Jay Inslee doubles down on the Climate Commitment Act despite high gas prices

Jan 5, 2024, 7:45 AM | Updated: 11:33 am

inslee budget...

Gov. Jay Inslee previews his legislative agenda for the upcoming session on Monday, Dec. 11. (Photo courtesy of Jay Inslee's Flickr page)

(Photo courtesy of Jay Inslee's Flickr page)

Gov. Jay Inslee spoke with KIRO Newsradio’s Colleen O’Brien Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News and continued to defend the Climate Commitment Act and the high gas prices in Washington State.

Listen to the entire interview:

From KIRO Newsradio’s Seattle’s Morning News, here is the full transcript:

Colleen O’Brien: Joining us live now is Governor Jay Inslee ahead of his trip to Clark County today, the governor is talking about a new Criminal Justice Training Commission center opening there, something needed in our state to bolster recruitment efforts, plus a solar facility, new affordable housing. We want to talk about that, but Governor, I have to start with the exchange you had with reporters yesterday regarding evidence that emerged that multiple analysts knew and informed you and lawmakers about the impact on gas prices from the Climate Commitment Act. We heard you yesterday denying that this evidence was valid, despite the analysts being spot on and prices showing it is up 40 to 45 cents a gallon. That’s exactly what happened. How do you respond to that today?

Gov. Jay Inslee: Well, first off, we would be pleased prices have come down almost a dollar.

Colleen: On a national average.

Inslee: It has come down has come down about $1. So that’s good news.

Colleen: Our prices are still higher here in our state.

Inslee: Unfortunately, our prices have aways been higher on the West Coast of the United States, in Oregon and Idaho. That has always been the case, and Oregon, Washington, and California have always been in the top five or six nationally. And we ought to now continue this effort to drive down pollution, the oil companies want to be able to pollute in infinite amounts, which are harming the health of our children. And we cannot allow infinite pollution, we’ve got to have a cap on the amount of pollution. We also have to get to transparency. So, we really know about potential gouging by the oil industry. This is an industry that wants to continue to make $200 billion of profits while whipsawing us on their prices. And then polluting in increasing amounts. We can’t accept that, and we aren’t going to go backward to allow more pollution. You know, there’s a study just the other day that found 16 communities in Washington started with Ellsberg that have a reduction of life of two and a half years as a result of the pollution from this industry. So we are going to continue our effort to restrain pollution. And we’re going to use the dollars generated by this to really help Washingtonians. One of the things I’m going to Vancouver for today is to look at a community solar installation, I believe, to really help people get access to cheaper electricity to get solar panels for their houses.

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Colleen: Nobody’s denying that solar energy is good for us, that we don’t want pollution, and that pollution is bad for our health. Nobody is arguing that everybody sees prices going down on the national front. But we’re looking at the data right in front of us. In fact, Chris Sullivan has the data on gas prices and surrounding states. What I want you to focus on, though, is the Climate Commitment Act. This was your Climate Commitment Act. We’re not talking about solar facilities, we’re not talking about pollution impacts, or we’re talking about the impact of the Climate Commitment Act on gas prices. And that Washingtonians are really struggling, governor.

Inslee: So let me finish the sentence here for a second so we can have an honest discussion here. We are talking about those who want to repeal the Climate Commitment Act, which would eliminate the help we’re giving to Washingtonians to deal with these high prices, including a proposal we have made to help 2 million Washingtonians with their utility bills by using the funds. And, in fact, unfortunately, there are those who are, in fact, trying to eliminate that stream of funding that is helping so many people get their utility bills lower, and unfortunately, there are those who want to pollute in infinite amounts. And it’s unfortunate, but that is the truth. So I’m we’re gonna go down and celebrate some good news down in Clark County about moving forward against climate change. I’m proud of our state, we are leading the country on it, we’re going to continue. We’re also going to go down today and celebrate this new criminal justice training center. We need more officers on the street. And what we’ve done is to have two new criminal justice training centers, which really helps our recruiting so that people can get trained closer to where they live. I’ve also proposed a $10 million fund to help local communities hire more police officers as well. I’m hoping the legislature will fund 80 new positions with the State Patrol. This is something that’s needed. And we want to celebrate that today.

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Colleen: Absolutely something that’s needed in the state. Now, the initiative to repeal the Climate Commitment Act is likely a reaction to the fact that you told and we have you on record saying prices would go up just pennies if anything, and you said, in fact, gas prices might lower, and that has turned out to be not true. Governor, I won’t call it a lie because we don’t know your intent, but it’s not true. What would it cost you politically to just admit the Climate Commitment Act did increase gas prices more than you said it would. Consumers are hurting, and they want to see it go away.

Inslee: So they don’t want to see it go away. And I’ll tell you why they want to have cleaner air, and they don’t want to have infinite pollution. This bill fundamentally caps the amount of pollution our kids are breathing. We have an epidemic of asthma in our in our state. We have forest fires burning down whole towns. And I do believe Washingtonians want to restrain pollution. I also think they want to have transparency about the oil company profits that people are making. And they don’t want to be whipsawed by this. That’s one of the reasons we want to link our market with California and Quebec, so that we can restraint, restraint, some of the compliance costs that companies do have, I think that can be a salutary impact look like a part of our college, he made honest, good faith efforts trying to predict what the oil companies would do. But they control it, they whipsaw us, we don’t control those prices. They raised prices more than the ecology company department predicted based on the information they had at that time in California. That was a good-faith effort. And now we’re making big investments to help Washingtonians get cheaper, more reliable, and cleaner energy. And I hope we will continue on that path.

AAA: Gas prices by state

Chris Sullivan, Senior Transportation Reporter: Governor, you talk about the transparency. One thing that I think confuses a lot of people is perhaps the perspective you talk about the whipsawing and the gouging of these evil oil companies. Why does that not extend past Washington’s borders? Why are they not gouging the same amount in Idaho and Washington? Why is Oregon’s price 70 cents cheaper than Washington’s today? Idaho’s 94 cents? Why does the gouging only seem to impact Washington?

Inslee: Well, to start, if you look back, roll back the tape. West Coast states have always been in the top five of gas prices in the United States.

Colleen: But not by $1. Between them. Well, it’s not $1. I haven’t looked, it is $1. Today, between Idaho and 76 cents in Oregon, it’s never been that much.

Inslee:  It has been significant differences. The Department of Ecology told people there would be some costs associated with this. It’s probably not in the range of the dollar. I disagree with that assessment.

Sully: Well, I’ve paid it driving back and forth between Montana almost every weekend this last couple of months. You go across the Idaho border Boom, 80 to 90 cents cheaper. That’s a fact in the case.

Inslee: Well enough to look at the graphs that I have.

Sully: I have the graphs in front of me.

Inslee: I can tell you this: we should not allow this pollution, this pollution in infinite amounts, number one, number two, we should have a law in this state which insists on transparency of the oil companies to find out why they are making profits of $200 billion while their whipsawing us on these, and we should do that, and I hope that the legislature will pass that this year and continue and not cut off the funds that are helping, including our transportation. Look, we have a transportation problem. We have problems with our ferries. And if this bill is eliminated, it will blow a $1 billion hole in our ability to continue to build this state. I do not believe that’s the route we should go. This is helping us build our state, and I think we should continue to do that. With that, I’m gonna have to excuse myself because I’ve got to get on the road. But I look forward to their conversation.

Colleen: Governor Jay Inslee, we do appreciate you joining us and talking about the Climate Commitment Act. If the reaction on our text line says anything. It’s gonna be a tough fight against that initiative this year. I’m looking forward to a good discussion. Thank you, governor of our state. Thanks a lot.

This interview has been edited slightly for grammar and clarity.

Seattle’s Morning News is on KIRO Newsradio weekdays from 5-9 a.m.

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Exclusive: Gov. Jay Inslee doubles down on the Climate Commitment Act despite high gas prices