The legislative workgroup chaired by Gov. Jay Inslee voted unanimously this evening to hire a Virginia-based climate consultant to examine Washington state’s options for reducing greenhouse gases that are contributing to global climate change. The Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup is tasked with figuring out the best way for Washington to meet its goal of slashing greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 – and how best to reach that goal set by the then-Democrat-controlled Legislature in 2008.
Getting an independent evaluation of what could work in the Evergreen State is a key part of the process that Inslee wants to turn into recommendations for legislative action in 2014. Two firms scored highest in an analysis by nonpartisan legislative staff – Science Applications International Corp., which was selected for the $350,000 contract, and ICF International.
“It’s a positive sign on a long route,” Inslee said after the vote, which came after a three-hour presentation by the top five bidders and a debate that went off without rancor despite the sharp differences between Democrats and Republicans on the subject of human-caused climate change.
“I remain optimistic,” Inslee said of prospects of finding common ground on a plan for attacking climate change that is melting glaciers, making seawater too acidic for shellfish to reproduce and may be contributing to extreme weather. “We’re a great state. We will prove it through this process.’’
“I thought that SAIC brought … the most engineering-focused view of it,” said Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale, who agreed with the three other voting legislators that runner-up ICF also was a good contractor. Inslee and two Democrats on the panel initially preferred ICF.
The work-group includes Ericksen, Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker of Orcas Island, Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon of Seattle, and Republican Rep. Shelly Short of Addy. Inslee is the nonvoting chairman. Both Ericksen and Short are skeptical of human contributions and specifically Washington state’s share.
Inslee, a Democrat, campaigned last year as an advocate of clean energy technology and solutions to the rising climate challenge. The workgroup was formed at Inslee’s request earlier this year through passage of Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5802. The consultant is to produce its findings by mid-October and the working group is to send its bipartisan recommendations to the 2014 Legislature for action.
ESSB 5802 requires the state to spend $627,000 on the project, including staff time and the consultant’s contract.
The decision to hire SAIC came after the panel heard presentations from five firms among 14 that answered the state’s ad. ICF and SAIC had been the top two scoring firms reviewed by nonpartisan staff.
SAIC is based in McLean, Va., and has offices in Sacramento; ICF is based in Fairfax, Va., and has offices in San Diego.
Inslee initially praised both SAIC and ICF. He liked SAIC because of work it had done in Maryland. But he said ICF had done sophisticated work on the impacts of a cap-and-trade policy on industry in California where adjacent states had not taken steps to impose costs on carbon-emitting polluters.
Short said the winning firm had an ability to get into “who bears the burden of the policy.” Fitzgibbon had preferred what he saw as a more “holistic” approach by ICF but changed his vote to make the choice unanimous.
Ranker had pushed the legislation to passage and said what is important is that the working group has a consultant all parties can agree on. He said the real test will come once the consultant’s report is done in October, and lawmakers on the panel are tasked with developing recommendations that they think can pass in the Legislature next year.
“The whole goal – the whole strategy all along – has been to force us, Democrats and Republicans, to come to the table and have a discussion. And the discussion is to determine what actions we’re going to take to address greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not to talk about whether or not it’s real. It’s not to talk about whether it’s human caused. It’s what are we going to do about it.”
The other consultants in the top five were: the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) of Arlington, Va.; Energetics Incorporated of Columbia, Md., and Bellingham, Wash.; and Tetra Tech of San Diego, Calif., and Bothell, Wash.
Despite the unanimous pick, Inslee and the others planned to get more information from SAIC and make sure that their request for a specific piece of analysis does not change the contract. The Democrats want to be sure the firm lays out the impacts to state industries – such as oyster growers – if the state chooses to do nothing.
A version of this post is being excerpted for tomorrow’s print editions of The Olympian and News Tribune.
UPDATE – Corrects locations where SAIC and ICF have corporate headquarters.