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Op-Ed: YES on I-1631, for clean energy and healthy communities

posted Apr 12, 2018, 11:36 AM by Simon Bakke
By Ander Russell, Clean Water Program Manager, and Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community to Community Development; Originally published in Cascadia Weekly, April 11, 2018.

Support clean air, clean energy and healthier communities.

The work of protecting people and the planet is a roller coaster of wins and losses. Lately, we are playing a lot of defense against local, state and national groups seeking to undo decades of social and environmental progress. Washington voters will soon have an opportunity to stand up for the health of our communities, economy and climate. Will you join us in our endeavor to create a cleaner future for Washington, building healthier communities for everyone in our state?

Northwest Washington has seen the consequences of a changing climate: Last summer, wildfire smoke choked the region, while salmon died in shallowing rivers. Even so, our state’s legislature failed to pass meaningful climate legislation this year. As the federal government turns its back on the reality of climate change, the real-life consequences jeopardize the health of people and the economy.

That’s why the people of Washington are moving forward with Initiative 1631, the Protect Washington Act. This initiative will create living-wage jobs by investing in clean energy, healthy forests and clean water. With funds from a fee paid by the state’s largest polluters, we can increase the resiliency of our communities to the impacts of climate change.

For decades, corporate polluters have put profits over people while dirtying our land, air and water. Many of us already contribute to cleaning up and preventing pollution. I-1631 gives us the tools to do the job right, getting the largest polluters to fund investments in clean energy infrastructure like wind and solar, and creating lasting, well-paying, local jobs.

I-1631 is backed by diverse constituencies across the state representing working families, communities of color, environmental and clean energy advocates, health professionals, businesses, and faith organizations all committed to building our state’s economy, improving the health of our residents and leading the fight against climate change. We came together to find solutions that work for all of us—especially those from the most impacted communities, who have historically been excluded from decisions about the environment and economy, Farmworkers, labor organizers, environmental advocates, health professionals, and more came together around the same table to create a policy that reflects our shared values. Every single person wants a healthy environment and a vibrant economy that works for everyone.

Here in Whatcom County, local backers of this policy include Community to Community, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, the NW Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), Riveters Collective, 350 Bellingham, Stand.earth, Safeguard the Southfork, Jobs with Justice, and Mt Baker Group Sierra Club.

Climate change is happening now. We can’t wait for action any longer. Yet we must ensure that solutions to climate change are fair and equitable. In crafting this initiative, our coalition put justice and equity at the forefront. That means listening to the voices of those who are impacted and ensuring indigenous rights and tribal sovereignty are respected and upheld, all while ensuring protections for workers in all industries—from refineries to farms.

What will I-1631 invest in? Expanding renewable power generation from wind and solar. Restoring and protecting water sources, estuaries, fisheries, and marine shorelines, reducing flood risk, improving infrastructure for treating stormwater, preparing for sea-level rise and addressing ocean acidification. We’ll improve forest health and enhance preparedness for wildfires. Dedicated funds will assist low-income residents to ensure affordable energy, and support workers that may be displaced by the transition from fossil fuels to energy independence. All this means thousands of family-wage jobs across our state. Our policy also ensures public oversight and accountability for making good investments.

Sovereign indigenous nations have also expressed meaningful support for this initiative. Funds will aid climate adaptation and clean energy for native communities, and tribal governments must be consulted on projects directly impacting their land and resources.

Washingtonians have never been afraid to lead or create something new. Through people’s ballot initiatives, Washington voters have forged the way for other states on numerous policies. Now, we’re setting the course for equitable climate policy in the United States. That’s why we need your help to qualify for the ballot and to win in November.

You can join our movement today! To learn more about our policy, the coalition, or to join our campaign, visit: yeson1631.org

Attend Bellingham’s campaign kickoff at 6:30pm April 19 at Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship (1207 Ellsworth St.) to get involved in signature gathering.

Rosalinda Guillen is executive director of Community to Community Development; Ander Russell is the Clean Water program manager for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities
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