PORT ANGELES — State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz will present a climate change policy to state lawmakers today that differs from the path set by her Democratic Party colleague, Gov. Jay Inslee.
Franz will tell legislators that she supports greenhouse gas reduction policies that focus on economic growth — and would want funds realized from a state policy to go toward economic growth, she said during an interview at the Peninsula Daily News on Wednesday.
As part of a 2018 supplemental budget he proposed in December, Inslee wants lawmakers to approve a tax on carbon pollution that would help meet the state-Supreme-Court-mandated obligation to fund education.
The carbon tax would cover some of the reserves that would pay for immediate education needs, mainly teacher compensation, that Inslee says are needed for to abide by the McCleary decision.
Inslee is expected to provide more details on the plan in his State of the State address at noon Tuesday.
Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee said Wednesday a carbon tax could cover other expenditures in future years.
In a letter Franz delivered today to state House and Senate leaders, she said DNR is offering principles that include the establishment of “greenhouse gas policies, such as pricing or capping carbon, that effectively reduce pollution.”
She urges investment in carbon sequestration programs “that incentivize keeping working farms and forests working,” according to her four-page letter.
Franz says carbon reduction should “maximize economic opportunities,” and she encourages “treatments that restore forest health, reduce catastrophic wildfires, and retain or create jobs in rural timber communities.”
Franz said that she approaches climate change as head of an agency that manages 5.6 million acres of agricultural properties, commercial forests, aquatic areas and waterfront land “right on the Seattle waterfront,” she said.
Climate-change impacts include catastrophic wildfires to rain-inspired landslides to Eastern Washington dust storms to ocean acidification off Washington’s coast, she noted.
Franz said that 2.7 million acres of forests — DNR manages 371,000 acres in Clallam and Jefferson counties and northwest Grays Harbor County — are in poor health due to drought and insect infestation.
“We are on the front lines of climate change in Washington state,” Franz said. “In that role we are already seeing significantly the impacts of climate change in our state.
“Those communities that are feeling it are rural lands.
“We are seeing increases in drought on agricultural land that results in decreased productivity.
“We need to make sure we are preparing our lands to be strong and resilient and prepare to produce not only the next five to 10 years but the next 20 to 25 years.”
Forests should be valued not only as conservation lands “but working forest lands that are important to our economy,” she said.
Franz acknowledged that education funding faces “significant challenges,” noting DNR timber sales have contributed $120 million toward school construction.
“I am not in a place to say, ‘no, it shouldn’t co to education,” she said.
But Franz said she can say that climate change has economic impacts that translate to a negative economic impacts and increased costs to battle wildfires — $500 million from 2014-2016 — and less money for state coffers.
Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee said Wednesday that Inslee is familiar with Franz’s proposal and how it differs from his plan.
“The governor appreciated her carbon proposal,” Lee said. “I do know there will be a lot of conversation on where those monies go.
“The important thing is that she supports a carbon proposal and that she believes she needs to do something around climate change.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].