Washington Gov. Jay Inslee toured the Copper Mountain Solar 3 Facility just outside Boulder City on Monday in his bid for the Democratic nomination for president as he continues his “Climate Mission Tour.”
In a Democratic field that spans dozens of candidates — including several well known names — the relatively unknown Washington governor has attempted to stand apart by centering his campaign on climate change.
“This is not just a dream it’s a reality,” said Inslee. “I want people to understand across the country that this is not just a dream, it’s not just a fiction, it’s not just a rainbow. It’s real jobs producing real electricity for Nevada.”
Inslee joined with representatives from IBEW Local 357 and current employees of Copper Mountain Solar on the tour of the facility, which he said was an example of how good paying union labor can serve as a foundation for a just transition to 100 percent clean energy economy, saying the country needs “not just a transition to a carbon free economy but a just transition. That means that everybody has a stake in it and every body moves forward.”
While Inslee is not the only candidate to discuss climate change on the campaign trail, he said he was the first to make a clean energy economy the cornerstone of his campaign and pledged to continue making climate change his number one issue if elected.
“I have said forcefully and repeatedly that it has to be the first foremost and paramount duty of the United States, because if it’s not job one it won’t get done,” Inslee said.
In his presidential announcement video the former state lawmaker, congressman and two-term governor’s highlighted his decades-long battle to combat climate change.
“We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we’re the last that can do something about it,” Inslee said.
Moving the discussion of climate change to the presidential debates is also one of Inslee’s goals, and he has asked the National Democratic Committee to hold an issue-specific town hall. He has called on the other presidential candidates to do the same, but said he has yet to hear a response.
“I have seen both the urgent perils, and the promise of good jobs in the last month,” said Inslee, mentioning how Paradise, California burned down to its foundations and 25,000 people lost their homes, and the infrastructure work needed on Miami Beach roads due to the rising sea levels.
Inslee is also one of two presidential candidates to visit towns in Iowa devastated by floods, the second being Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Outside of climate policy, he emphasized his accomplishments in Washington State as a progressive, passing a statewide paid family leave law and the first net neutrality bill in the United States. He also mentioned touted his state’s economic success as the number one state in wage growth, along with the fastest GDP growth in the nation.
Inslee congratulated Gov. Steve Sisolak for signing SB 358 into law Monday, a bill that raises Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030.
“He’s signing a fantastic bill in part because of this great leadership,” Inslee said. “What they’re doing in Carson City today is just going to accelerate the development of these projects and that’s an inspiration for the whole nation.”
Last year, Inslee chaired the Democratic Governors Association, and he visited Nevada to campaign for Sisolak’s gubernatorial race. While chairman seven Republican-held governor seats flipped to Democrats — the best result for the party in over three decades.
During a Q&A with reporters Inslee spoke about Nevada’s fraught relationship with Yucca Mountain when asked if he saw nuclear energy as a possible energy option in the future.
“I think we should be open to all sources of clean energy and zero- and low-carbon and that would include nuclear,” Inslee said. “If—and this is only if—we could solve some challenges of the industry.”
He stipulated he would only support nuclear energy if it became more cost effective, were safer, reduced the waste stream, and found more public acceptance, suggesting more research should go into whether those issues could ever be solved.
When asked his position on Yucca Mountain as a possible final destination for nuclear waste, he said “we would have to have a consensus with the Nevada community … and that’s true for the rest of the United States.”
“We have to move to a decision making process that has the support of local communities.”
Asked if he has ruled out Yucca Mountain, Inslee said “what I have said is we would need to have a consensus.”
Inslee said he opposed oil and gas leasing on public lands, saying the federal government needed to stop the “overly generous lease provisions on public lands” and end the billions of dollars of tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
“In my view we have to stop these leases that would essentially result in tremendously damaging climate change both from the health perspective and the environmental perspective but also the financial perspective.”
Parts of Nevada are seeing a rise in oil and gas lease applications for public land. In a recent high profile case the U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday oil and gas leasing would not be permitted in Nevada’s scenic Ruby Mountains, something activist fought against for months. The Forest Service received more than 14,000 comments on the project documents before the final decision.
“We need to keep that product in the ground and it means we have to stop the horrendous abuse of taxpayers with these subsidies programs,” Inslee said.