NW environmental groups pledge to fight Trump changes to clean energy policy

SEATTLE — The Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era policies on clean energy requirements and some environmental policies isn’t sitting well with many Northwest environmental groups.

Many say they’ve never seen a bigger difference between the mindset of the two Washingtons — Washington state and Washington D.C.

“I think this is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” says Becky Kelley, who has been with the Washington Environmental Council for more than two decades.

Kelley is  president of the umbrella organization that helps coordinate the efforts of about 20 environmental groups all working for a cleaner environment across the Evergreen State.

"Nobody voted for dirty air," says Kelley, "I think the president is really out of of step with the rest of the country. "

On Wednesday, the Sierra Club joined other environmental groups and Native tribes as plaintiffs against the Trump administration regarding coal leasing rights in Western states. But, the courts aren't the only way these environmental groups plan to battle back.

Kelley says no matter what happens in the District of Columbia, the fight for the environment is always a local one.

"At the end of the day here at the state and local level, we're going to do a better job. We're going to protect our home."

The rollback of Obama-era clean energy requirements doesn't affect our region as much of other parts of the country, according to the Northwest Energy Coalition, since state laws already support renewable energy in many West Coast states.

"Not only does this not work as a matter of protecting the environment, but it's not even good economics," says NW Energy Coalition spokesperson Sean O'Leary.

The Northwest Energy Coalition says their group is made up 100-plus companies, environmental nonprofits and utilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. O'Leary says the numbers of some of the cheapest power in the country and strong job market speak for themselves.

"What we've learned in the Northwest so far is that good environmental jobs policy has also been good economic policy -- and we have the economy to show for it."

O'Leary says it's been a decade since Washington voters passed I-937, which created the states' renewable energy standard. He says rates have gone from the seventh-cheapest power in the country to the cheapest. And, he adds, that job creation has gone up due to things like solar panels and wind projects.

O'Leary says energy conservation and energy-efficiency programs like getting insulation in low-income homes are labor intensive programs that also create jobs and help make living in our area more affordable, too. O'Leary says pitting the environment against jobs is a false equivalency.

"It's not environment or jobs -- it's the environment AND jobs," he says.

The Washington Environmental Council urges every individual to stand up in their own way, whether that's how we talk to our kids, how we vote with our dollar every day, or reaching out to our elected officials both in Olympia and D.C.

"It goes all the way from the dinner table talking to your kids about why these things matter to getting involved at the city level," says Kelley, "to buying the green power from your utility, and going out on a Saturday to the community meeting to letting your legislator know you care about these issues."

Kelley also says while these things might take time out of our already-busy lives, she says if we care -- we need to make that time right now.