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Inslee changes tune, opposes Washington fossil-fuel projects

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is changing course on his support of two fossil-fuel projects in the state.

Inslee spoke out against the projects following a bill signing Wednesday banning hydraulic fracking for oil and natural gas within Washington state, The News Tribune reported.

Inslee said he cannot in good conscience support the Puget Sound Energy's liquefied natural gas site under construction in Tacoma and a methanol production facility in Kalama.

"In the early days of both projects, I said they could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we transition to cleaner energy sources, but I am no longer convinced that locking in these multi-decadal infrastructure projects are sufficient to accomplishing what's necessary," Inslee said in a news release.

Emerging science on the rapid pace of climate change and the environmental effects of natural gas now mean the state's efforts and future investments in energy infrastructure should focus on clean, renewable sources rather than fossil fuels, he said.

"The age of consequences is upon us," he said. "We have to act based on clear science."

Puget Sound Energy spokesman Andy Wappler pushed back, saying the company is confident that science and fact continue to support their facility. "It is very clear the approving local and other agencies understand the benefits" of the LNG site, he said.

Inslee is running for president, presenting himself as the leading climate-focused candidate in a crowded Democratic field.

Various groups in opposition to LNG in Tacoma have long asked for the governor to halt construction on the Tideflats project, most recently after the latest environmental review supported previous findings on greenhouse gas emissions and restarted the permit process.

On Wednesday, Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud said the tribe welcomed the governor's strong and clear statement about what Sterud called the dire impacts of fossil fuels.

"Today he showed strong leadership on climate change," Sterud said.

Kent Caputo, Northwest Innovation Works' general counsel, said the company remains confident the refinery project at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas into methanol for shipment to Asia will make it through the review process. The company is waiting for the release of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in the coming months, the Daily News reported .

"Our project aligns with Washington state's commitment to carbon reduction," Caputo said. "We remain confident that the regulatory process will conclude with an approval for this innovative way to make durable consumer products, like fleece vests and kayaks."

While stopping short of calling for an outright halt of the projects, Inslee said he would work with agency directors in the next few weeks to discuss future options.

"I want to be clear that my stance on these projects does not change our state's regulatory process," Inslee said. "As is the case with any project, our state agencies will comply with state and federal laws to ensure a rigorous and objective review of projects. Decisions on permit applications must also be made in accordance with state and federal law."

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