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Emissions Limits Will Test Gov. Inslee's 'Greenest Gov.' Claim

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) is under pressure to from youth climate activists in his state to fulfill his pledge to take meaningful action on climate change. "Aren’t we children the real stakeholders here?" writes 14-year-old Gabe Mandell. "After all, it’s our future hanging in the balance." (Photo: AP/file)

This past Friday, I was in a King County courtroom as history was being made. I am one of eight petitioners under the age of 18 who sued the Washington State Department of Ecology and won – not once but three times! The court not only affirmed that we children have the right to a safe and healthful future under the state constitution, but has just taken the next step by ordering Ecology to make a science-based rule by the end of this year.

It all started when we petitioned Ecology almost two years ago to act on the most current and best climate science and make a rule reducing our carbon dioxide emissions, to fight climate change. The agency’s own reports admit current standards – nearly a decade old – are inadequate. Current standards don’t even include transportation pollution, which accounts for nearly half of the state’s carbon emissions. Information from leading climate scientist James Hansen says that’s only about a third of what the state needs to do. Yet Ecology denied our petition without even looking at the science.

"Polluters should not be able to cheat and make it look like they are greener than they are."

So why would they deny our petition? At this point, it’s important to know that for the past 26 years, Ecology has said we need to address climate change. Even though they have the authority, nothing major has ever been done. We took them to King County Superior Court, and the judge ordered Ecology to reconsider protecting the climate for future generations – the first ruling of its kind in the United States.

Ecology denied us again, but the judge set an amazing precedent, saying that under the public trust doctrine we have a right to a healthful and pleasant environment, including a stable climate. Then, after meeting with us children, Gov. Inslee instructed Ecology to make a rule under the Clean Air Act, so the judge let them go ahead with that. They started in September of last year, but this February they withdrew the rule due to “stakeholder input.” It wasn’t our input, and aren’t we children the real stakeholders here? After all, it’s our future hanging in the balance.


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So, we went back to court for a third time. Now, Ecology is court-ordered to finalize a science-based rule this year. However, I was very surprised to see that Gov. Inslee said what the judge did was “reaffirming the need to do what we’ve already committed to doing.” Really? I was there and I remember it being a LOT different. From the bench, the judge said “I’m not confident at this point that the rulemaking procedure will be completed by the end of 2016 without a court order…The reason I’m doing this is because this is an urgent situation. This is not a situation that these children can wait on.”

So right now Gov. Inslee has a tremendous opportunity to fight for our future and to realize his promise to be the greenest governor in the nation. He can be a climate hero because he can direct Ecology to make a bold, science-based rule, and take us away from weak half measures.

Polluters should not be able to cheat and make it look like they are greener than they are. Gov. Inslee must do everything he can to encourage the use of clean energy and cut our dependence on dirty fossil fuels that put us in this situation in the first place. Here’s the chance to get the numbers right and lead other states to do what is needed to stop climate change. This is his moment to step up, take the spotlight, and protect future generations, including mine. Let’s help Gov. Inslee save our future by letting him know we support this path. Now is the time to act, Gov. Inslee. We are counting on you.

Gabe Mandell

Gabe Mandell, 14, is president of Plant For The Planet – Seattle and writes on behalf of a group of eight youth petitioners that successfully challenged the Washington State Department of Ecology for its insufficient action to reduce emissions in the state.

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