Contrasting views on climate action in the race for Washington's 10th Congressional District | KNKX

Contrasting views on climate action in the race for Washington's 10th Congressional District

Oct 29, 2020

Two Democrats are vying to fill the open seat in Washington’s 10th Congressional District. State representative Beth Doglio is running against former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.

The race has been called a microcosm of the recent split in the Democratic Party between establishment liberals and left-leaning progressives. One issue that clearly displays their differences is how they would address climate change.  

The 10th District includes Tacoma and Olympia, as well as nearly all of Pierce County, most of Thurston and a portion of Mason County. The seat became available after Congressman Denny Heck announced his retirement early last year and attracted 19 candidates in the primary. It’s a Democratic stronghold, where most voters expect some form of climate action.

Doglio was an environmental activist and founding executive director of Washington Conservation Voters before she was elected to the Legislature. Speaking in a recent forum put on by the League of Women Voters, she said this issue is why she’s running.

“My son said, ‘Mom, you've got to do this. You're the best person to address climate change. And that's the most important issue to our generation.’ And he knows that I have been working for over 30 years to address this issue,” she said.  

Doglio supports the Green New Deal, which calls for shifting the country to all renewable energy in just 10 years. She cites laws she’s helped craft in the state Legislature as necessary experience to get there, starting with the recent mandate to transition Washington state to carbon-neutral energy by 2030.

“Once you've cleaned the grid, then you can move buildings onto it. And I passed a bill that actually sets the first-in-the-nation emissions performance standard for existing commercial buildings,” Doglio said. “We have a lot of stock out there — super inefficient. My bill will make them more efficient. And it put money in to provide jobs to actually do those retrofits."

Strickland says, as mayor of Tacoma, she helped the city’s utility grow use of solar power through a community solar project. She also worked on expanding bus and light-rail service by serving on two mass transit boards. And she’s proud of her record addressing climate change.

“When the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate accord, I joined 140 other mayors around the country to reaffirm our commitment to doing that,” Strickland said.

But Strickland favors slightly less aggressive goals than the Green New Deal — those of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — that would get to net-zero emissions electricity production in the U.S. in 20 years. She stepped down as president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to run for Congress and favors more moderate actions. She says she would follow Joe Biden’s climate plan.

“To use infrastructure as a way to address cleaning our grid, to address how we electrify more of our vehicles and to address having power sources that are more green and more clean,” Strickland said. “And by doing that, we can put people to work. We can have a just transition. And we don't put people out of work who now work in fossil fuel industries with no other options.”  

But Strickland has come under fire in some circles for supporting fossil fuel infrastructure projects such as the methanol and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Tacoma’s tideflats, which are vehemently opposed by the Puyallup Tribe. Others say Strickland is pragmatic.

“We're not going to agree on everything all the time,” Strickland said. She was responding to a question about how each candidate would ensure that communities, such as Indigenous tribes near fossil fuel projects, are included in decisions that impact them.

“The transition to a cleaner energy economy has to recognize that there are some forms of energy that we have to use now," Strickland said. "When we talk about something, for example, like natural gas, that is considered a bridge fuel.

Doglio disagrees. She opposed Tacoma’s LNG plant from the beginning, along with multiple West Coast coal terminals. She says it’s time to get serious about climate change.  

All of that energy that we are putting into building new fossil fuel infrastructure needs to be put into building out a clean energy economy,” Doglio said.    

The Democrat who wins this seat could tip the scales on climate action in one direction or the other.