By Marianne Lavelle, 10SEP19
“This story was co-published with The Weather Channel as part of Collateral, a series on climate, data and science.
“It was Valentine’s Day 2018, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was about to be jilted.
“Few outside Inslee’s circle of advisers knew that one of the nation’s most ardent advocates of climate action had been working for weeks to forge an alliance with one of the state’s leading greenhouse gas polluters—the oil giant BP.
Now, on the day before a key hearing for Inslee’s proposal to enact the nation’s first carbon tax, the kind of comprehensive climate plan he had been talking about since taking office, BP was evasive.
“Will you be testifying tomorrow on behalf of BP?” Chris Davis, Inslee’s senior climate advisor, wrote in an email to the company’s Washington state lobbyist Denny Eliason. “Very needed right now.”
“Eliason put him off, indicating he’d know more after an upcoming call. But the next morning, Inslee’s office still had no idea if his proposal would go before the state Senate’s chief tax-writing committee that day with the influential backing of BP. The oil company was the best hope Inslee’s team had for the endorsement of a big business directly affected by the policy—support that could win over conservative Democrats or even Republicans, whose votes Inslee needed for the measure to pass. “Any news?” Davis prodded in another email.
“BP’s lobbyist delivered the final brush-off two hours before that afternoon’s hearing. Despite BP’s public support for carbon pricing and the concessions Inslee and Democratic lawmakers had made to win the oil company’s support for their carbon tax proposal, BP wasn’t going along. Eliason said BP would take no position on the bill—a silence that might as well have been a death knell.
“The bill failed. And later in the year, BP also played a decisive role in defeating a ballot initiative to adopt a carbon fee in Washington state.
“Inslee did score a climate policy victory in April 2019—just as he was beginning his short-lived presidential campaign centered around action on global warming. Inslee signed what his office called “an unprecedented suite of clean energy legislation,” including Washington’s commitment to 100 percent carbon-free electricity. But a crucial piece was missing: the state’s climate program does nothing to curb the fuel burned in cars, trucks, and other transport—BP’s main products, and the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas…”
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