Inslee talks clean energy jobs, Malden rebuild and battling climate change

Washington Governor Jay Inslee speaking with the Mayor of Malden, Dan Hardwood.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee speaking with the Mayor of Malden. (Credit: Dan Hardwood)



Washington Governor Jay Inslee visited Washington State University’s Pullman campus on Thursday. He spoke with Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Mary Ellen Pitney on climate-related issues including building more electric car charging stations, helping towns become fire resistant and recovery efforts in Malden, three years after that Labor Day fire.

Mary Ellen Pitney: By 2035, all new vehicles sold in Washington must be electric or zero emission. So what’s the state’s plan to improve access to rapid charging stations for E vehicles, specifically east of the Cascades? 

Gov. Inslee: Well, we have a very sophisticated mapping tool that is nearing completion to really map where the demand is for charging stations. And I’m proud of it. I think it’s leading the nation. We’re integrating capital dollars both from the federal funds and from our state funds. Our Cap-and-invest bill, as you know,  is charging polluters and we’re using those dollars to help people get access to electricity for their electric cars and charging stations. I think that we are well on our way to a successful build out. We’re building electric charging infrastructure — by the way, not just for long trips, but for short trips. One of the things we’re focusing on is getting people charging opportunities if you live in an apartment. 

Mary Ellen Pitney: As we become more climate resilient, jobs are going to have to change. Some will be phased out, some will be created. So what are the plans to help workers prepare for this change? 

Gov. Inslee: Well, the first thing is to create the change, to create these new jobs. Fortunately, we’re doing it all over. You just can’t turn around where there’s not new jobs in the state of Washington. [The] largest facility making polysilicate solar panels in the western hemisphere in Bellingham at the Silfab company — new jobs going in there. New jobs in South Seattle at First Mode, that’s building some of the largest fuel cells that can even power locomotives. New construction jobs and electrician jobs in Yakima putting in solar panels. 

Then we need training for people and we are building new training capacity very rapidly. I was in Yakima when we permitted a large solar facility just east of Yakima about a month ago. And I met 60 people being trained to be electricians at Perry Trade School. So, we need to increase and we are increasing the capacity to train electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers, teamsters, carpenters, engineers for people. So, we’re well on our way to fulfill those jobs. 

 Mary Ellen Pitney: What is the state’s plan outside of these energy solutions to help towns adapt to this changing climate, become fire-adapted communities? 

Gov. Inslee: Well, we’re increasing our expenditures to help communities build firewise capability. We have increased investment by the tens of millions of dollars on firefighting capacity […] of training and hiring firefighters and buying the firefighting equipment. 

I just came out of a meeting with the mayor of Malden, and he was very complimentary about our state’s efforts to help Malden rebuild with new wells, with new sewer systems. He’s been working very closely with our State Department of Commerce, and he’s been very happy. Although it has taken longer than any of us would have liked. There’s real progress going on in Malden. They’re going to be opening their post office and their new municipal building hopefully this fall. 

But listen, bottom line is: we have to defeat climate change. There is no amount of firefighters, there’s no amount of emergency assistance, there’s no amount of respirators that can save us from this beast. We have to attack it at its source, which is carbon emissions and methane emissions. That is the only path to survival.

This interview was condensed and edited for time and clarity.