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Originally published Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 6:03 PM

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Guest: Gov. Inslee’s climate plan means more jobs, less carbon

Reducing Washington’s carbon pollution will help clean our air and create new industries and more jobs, writes guest columnist Ingrid Rasch.

Special to The Times

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Environmental protection is certainly important, but I have yet to see a cost-benefit analysis which justifies... MORE
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IN the 1980s, I was Microsoft’s first human-resources director. Like any other executive-level human-resources job in our state, I learned what attracted Microsoft’s employees to Washington.

Their reasons were usually simple: a good job, economic opportunity and the quality of life that comes with being surrounded by so much natural wonder — from the tiny tide pools of the Pacific to the rolling wheat-covered hills of the Palouse.

To ensure our state remains a competitive place to live and work, we must expand our economy and protect our environment. That’s why I support Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate plan — and I urge our state’s representatives to do the same.

The governor’s plan is fiscally prudent. It creates a new, market-based system that for the first time holds Washington’s largest polluters accountable for the carbon they pump into our atmosphere. In the program’s first year, it will generate $1 billion for transportation, education and tax relief for working families.

Whether I was at Microsoft or, years later, leading the administrative department at Genetic Systems, the first biotech company founded in Seattle, I understood that the smartest, most profitable businesses are the ones most efficiently managed.

The same holds true for our state.

Inslee’s plan also proposes common-sense capital investments like weatherizing public buildings. This saves taxpayers’ money by saving energy. And by expanding Washington State University’s Farm Energy Program, the plan recognizes the value energy efficiency delivers to our state’s farmers — who with just a few improvements can save up to 25 percent on their energy bills while also reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Politics in our state — and across the country — changed in November’s election. But something else is changing that must transcend politics — namely, our climate.

Climate change is the central environmental challenge of our time. According to “Risky Business,” a 2014 report released by business luminaries — including former Secretary of State and Bechtel Chief Executive George Shultz and former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Hank Paulson — sea levels around Seattle could rise by between 1.5 to 3 feet by the end of the century, inundating businesses located in low-lying areas. Further inland, milder weather and drought threaten the $11 billion market for primary wood products in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Climate change also threatens to slow Washington’s economy due to ocean acidification. As the country’s No. 1 provider of farmed oysters, clams and mussels, the total economic impact of shellfish aquaculture on our state is $270 million annually. Local shellfish growers employ 3,200 people. As we saw at Washington hatcheries between 2005 and 2009, ocean acidification makes it difficult for shellfish larvae to calcify and maintain their shells, increasing mortality and wiping out profits.

By crafting one of the world’s most comprehensive and progressive climate plans, Washington’s efforts to rein in carbon pollution help our state meet the common-sense standards in the federal Clean Power Plan, the single-most effective action our nation can take to protect our economy from climate change.

The plan also sends growing, innovative companies a clear message: When it comes to clean energy and clean transportation, Washington is open for business.

Industries like wind, solar and aviation biofuels have already proven they can create good jobs and clear our air. According to the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs, more than 36,000 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced nationwide through the first three quarters of 2014, with more on the way.

As long as Washington continues to value a strong economy and a clean environment — something the Legislature can prove by backing Inslee’s plan — hardworking, creative employees will flock to our state. They will invent new technologies, develop marketable skills and solve our biggest problems.

As we head into a new year filled with new challenges and opportunities, that’s exactly the kind of workforce Washington needs.

Ingrid Rasch is a Pacific Northwest chapter director for the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs. She lives in Seattle.

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