Thursday, May 28, 2009

Climatic Change Day for Washington State: Driving environmental policy with Executive Orders?

Washington State Governor has chosen to resuscitate the ideas behind some environmental bills that died in both houses of legislature through executive orders. By signing the executive order on May 21, 2009, the governor has lifted the bar of negotiation on regional energy program and initiatives to a higher level. Although the governor may have meant well in furthering the course of climate change and managing greenhouse gas emissions, the use of executive order is tantamount to scuttling the will of the people, which had been reposed in their legislators. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for environmental initiatives that manages environmental pollution, create clean energy jobs, reduce global climate change and break American’s dependence on foreign oil, however, using an executive order to achieve this cause is un-democratic and that is what makes me cringe. Washingtonians respect and support the collective will of our representative legislators, even if it is at variance with our immediate want. This is the snag in representative democratic voting.

For one, imagine the remaining five other governors in the Western State Climate Change Initiative group issuing similar executive orders to drive the initiative in their various states. Would that not be construed as a regional hammock, where clicks of governors chose to drive failed legislative bills or their personal preference(s) through executive orders? Second, can you contemplate Governor Schwanneger effecting through executive order recent initiative denying marital status to men and women with alternative lifestyle in the State of California? Would that not have resulted in pandemonium? Here was the case where a preposition was passed by the Californian electorate, affirmed by the State’s Supreme Court, and with a fiat of executive order the governor maneuvers the will of the public. I am not saying this actually happened it is just a hypothetical example to show the impact of using executive orders by a Governor or President. In this hypothetical example, the only difference between what our State Governor did and what the Governor of the State of California would have done was to usurp the will of the people by abridging their voting power as reposed in their legislators. While the governor of California would have directly abridged the will of the people as represented by their voting on proposition 8 and their affirmation by the California Supreme court, the executive order of the governor of the State of Washington indirectly achieves the same result. This type of administrative action could create a democratic debacle or crisis? This is why I do not subscribe to our governor using executive order(s) to drive any initiative.

With all my due respect for our governor and her office, the use of executive order to drive the Washington State Climatic Change initiative does not augur well for the initiative and the leadership role that the State governor is attempting to attain among the 30 state governors who signed the gas, energy and climate change initiative that was forwarded to the United States Congress this past week. Our governor must take a higher ground, work through consensus and develop confidence in initiatives that are progressive, for her to attain that leadership role among her peers.

I strongly believe that our cause is just and our case for managing green house emissions levels, controlling our carbon footprint, protecting Washington State freshwater supplies and establishing clean energy strategy that creates green jobs, is as good for probity as it can get. I also strongly believe that our opponents do not have more superior alternative proposal to deal with the issue of clean energy,climate change and environmental pollution as we have put forward. We however have to be cautious in the way we drive public policy initiatives or bills, call it what you may, before they become laws.

We can win this war of ideas and debate on clean energy, climate change and environmental pollution, even if it takes some time; even if it takes us drumming the beat of the outrageous impact of global climatic change on the lives, health and public safety of Washingtonians; even if it takes us once again through the arduous legislative process just as any well meaning legislative bill should. We can do this holding high our heads and standing tall. However, achieving our noble course through an undemocratic process is not a better option for us today, tomorrow or ever. Even, if we have to extend the target date for meeting our goals for climate change and managing greenhouse emission standard beyond the targeted date of 2020. Did I hear Excuse me? I beg your pardon, I was just joking about the latter statement.
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