Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Democracy in action at packed climate change hearing

It was standing-room-only at this morning’s public hearing on House Bill 1819, the governor-requested bill that would move us towards a regional cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. Rep. Dave Upthegrove (Des Moines) is prime sponsor of the bill in the House and chairman of the Ecology and Parks committee, which heard the bill today.

The testimony continued beyond the allotted two hours, but Rep. Upthegrove announced at the hearing’s commencement that everyone who wished to testify would be able to do so. Those speaking were limited to two minutes each, including the governor’s representatives, Keith Phillips of the Office of the Governor, and Jay Manning of the state Department of Ecology.

Although there were plenty of lobbyists among the 50+ people who signed in to speak, the most compelling testimony came from regular citizens on both sides of the issue.

“The citizens stole the show,” Rep. Upthegrove said afterwards. “There were people who came from the four corners of the state. I was impressed with how far people were willing to travel for the chance to speak for two minutes on an issue they feel very strongly about.”

Those in favor of the bill touted what they say is its potential to create new jobs and industries here in Washington, and for our state to emerge as a leader in the clean technology movement. David Allen of McKinstry Company, a mechanical contractor based in Seattle, said that “green” products and services is “no longer a niche – it’s the future of economic growth.”

Opponents of the bill raised concerns about potential job losses due to regulations on businesses and industry. Nick Sherwood, who testified as a member of the general public, asked the committee, “How can further regulation on business provide economic stability?”
Members of the committee from both sides of the aisle pledged to read written testimonies and handouts passed out to them by those speaking. Those handouts and the comments made today will certainly help legislators as they continue to consider the bill.