Today, Governor Christine Gregoire signed an executive order that signals Washington state’s commitment to maintain its leadership role growing the clean energy economy and limiting pollution. The announcement of the executive order immediately followed the Governor’s testimony supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to human health. This finding allows EPA to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

“On a day when Washingtonians are pouring out in record numbers to let the EPA know they support action on climate change, it’s immensely exciting to see Governor Gregoire demonstrate her tenacity and continued leadership on climate change,” said Joan Crooks, executive director of Washington Environmental Council.

Thousands of people are expected to rally at noon outside the EPA hearing to demonstrate their support for federal action to limit global warming pollution.

The Governor’s executive order puts Washington on track to reduce the state’s global warming pollution and accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to a stronger clean energy economy. Specifically, it will:

  • start a process to ensure the state will meet the pollution limits adopted by the Legislature in 2008. These actions can be utilized if Congress does not pass comprehensive climate policy in time for the state to meet its 2020 limit;
  • provide Washingtonians with cleaner fuels to power our vehicles;
  • reduce traffic (and thus emissions) in congested urban areas;
  • drastically cut pollution from or phase out operations of Washington’s one major coal plant;
  • and keep the state engaged in the Western Climate Initiative, a regional program to reduce global warming pollution, while actively supporting federal programs to reduce pollution.

“It is very exciting to see actions to fight global warming moving forward in both Washingtons,” said KC Golden, policy director at Climate Solutions. “Last year, our state spent over $16 billion to import fossil fuels. Now more than ever, we need to reverse that course and work towards a clean energy future. This is an important step towards that goal.”

The executive order requires the state to seek to reach an agreement for Washington’s only coal-fired electricity generating plant — the TransAlta facility in Centralia – that will require it to comply with the state emissions performance standard usually reserved for new power plants no later than 2025, resulting in at least 50% emissions reductions from the plant.

TransAlta is the largest single source of global warming pollution in the state, accounting for 11 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Advocates encourage the state to work with the company and the people of Lewis County to accomplish the change sooner than 2025.

“It is clear that the end of coal in the Northwest is at hand.  The only question remaining is when” said Doug Howell, the Coal Free Northwest senior representative for the Sierra Club.  “We need to start now on developing clean energy to replace TransAlta’s dirty coal-power and on developing the community investment to protect the workers.”

The order also directs the Washington State Department of Transportation to work with regional transportation planning organizations in the state’s seven most urban areas to expand public transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects, and commute trip reduction programs, implementing benchmarks the legislature established in 2008.

“Commuters and families are already voluntarily leaving their cars at home to save money,” said Rob Johnson, executive director of Transportation Choices Coalition. “This will give Washingtonians more choices to get around, save money and improve their quality of life.”

“This will help speed and sustain Washington’s economic recovery,” added April Putney, political director, Futurewise.  “We will give more families the opportunity to live closer to work, schools, shopping, and recreation, and keep more money in the local economy and in the pockets of Washington families.”

“Governor Gregoire has been a champion for tackling climate change and this executive order is of critical importance to create clean energy jobs for a strong economic future,” said Kurt Fritts, executive director of Washington Conservation Voters.