We had a big year in 2017: we achieved all three of our top political priorities by electing Manka Dhingra to the state Senate, electing Don Orange to the Vancouver Port, and maintaining an environmental majority on Whatcom County’s Council. Explore some of the top news stories that covered our work.
High Country News | 10 Oct 2017
Climate change is just one of the Democrats’ priorities that could benefit if the legislature switches to Democratic control. Even though Republicans had only a one-vote majority, controlling the senate meant they ran the committees and could block bills. For example, at the request of the state Department of Ecology, Democratic state senators this year introduced a bill designed to increase taxes on oil transported through Washington state “to prevent oil spills and prepare for a rapid, aggressive, and well-coordinated response when spills occur.” The bill would have increased the tax from 4 cents to 6.5 cents per barrel. But it never got out of committee.
“Next year those bills will have a very real shot at being passed,” Dhingra says. She would definitely consider supporting an increase in the taxes oil companies pay to transport fuel through the states. The money that oil companies have funneled into the race “highlights that they are worried what is going to happen if I win,” she says.
OPB | 21 Oct 2017
Oil giants Tesoro-Savage are behind the $210 million Vancouver Energy project. They say the terminal would ship 360,000 barrels of oil daily from the Bakken region in the Midwest. The oil would travel through the Columbia River Gorge to Vancouver by rail. From there, it would be loaded onto ships bound for West Coast refineries.
If elected, Orange could shift the power of the three-member port commission board against the project for the first time. That outcome could spell the end of the terminal.
“This is a choice of what our economy should look like,” said Orange. “It is a choice of having a vibrant small business economy or becoming a big oil town.”
E&E News | 23 Oct 2017
A win for Manka Dhingra, a prosecutor, would give Democrats control of all three elected branches in Olympia, the state capital of Washington, and pave the way for Gov. Jay Inslee (D) to pursue an aggressive climate agenda. Senate Republicans, who now maintain a one-seat majority, have long frustrated Inslee’s climate aspirations. Their hopes rest on Jinyoung Lee Englund, a former staffer to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) who has dabbled in business as a Bitcoin spokeswoman and app developer since leaving Washington, D.C. “I would say everything is on the table,” said Shannon Murphy, president of Washington Conservation Voters, which is spending heavily to support Dhingra.
Think Progress | 8 Nov 2017
Just over 160 miles south of Seattle, a second local election also revealed cracks in the fossil fuel industry’s strategy in Washington, as a man named Don Orange defeated his opponent, Kris Greene, to claim the third seat on the Port of Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners.
Like the 45th District race, fossil fuel interests and climate activists targeted the Vancouver election because of its potential national and international climate implications: the Port of Vancouver has, for years, been the site of a battle over the largest proposed oil-by-rail terminal in the United States, known as the Tesoro-Savage terminal proposal. If built, the terminal would handle some 360,000 barrels of crude oil every day, brought by oil trains through the Columbia River Gorge that divides Oregon and Washington. The terminal would greatly increase oil train traffic, adding an additional 155 trains per week to the state’s railroads.
“Tonight, Clark County residents said loud and clear that they do not want to become just another polluted oil town,” Shannon Murphy, president of Washington Conservation Voters, said in response to Orange’s victory. “This win shows communities across the country that when we stand together we are stronger than big oil’s money.”
Mother Jones | 16 Nov 2017
[Dhingra’s] victory not only gave the party control of the State Senate, it will, along with an already Democratic governor’s mansion and House of Representatives, turn Washington solidly blue. That clears the way for a “full-scale effort in the next session of the Legislature” on climate, as Governor Jay Inslee said before the election.
“2018 is the year we’re going to push for something big in Washington,” says Nick Abraham, communications director of the Washington Conservation Voters. “Whether that goes through the legislature or the ballot is still on the table.”
The coalition of groups spearheading the climate campaign, called the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, expects to make a more formal announcement about its plans before the end of the year. They are looking at a policy that reduces greenhouse gas pollution, but also redirects investment into a suite of programs to promote clean energy, electrifying the transportation sector, clean water, and communities of color. Their plan, similar to one that is under discussion by Democratic leadership, likely will include a tax on carbon.