Victory!!  After an hour of public testimony and a second hour of council member discussion, the City Council voted 6-1 in favor of an ordinance that codifies the City’s Sustainability Plan, officially recognizes anthropogenic climate change, and sets as law the City’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city of Spokane by at least thirty percent (30%) below the 2005 baseline level by the year 2030.  The temporary Council Chambers room was filled to capacity and a second overflow room with a live feed was opened in an adjoining space.

Packed House!

Packed House!

Council President Ben Stuckart opened discussion of the proposal by describing several other city-related projects he worked on in other meetings earlier that day and asserting that the City Council could address public works, business development and a plethora of other issues at the same time as it addresses sustainability, climate and concerns about Spokane’s natural environment.  He took issue with columnists and others who questioned the council’s ability to manage both the streets and the environment simultaneously.

Over a dozen people spoke in favor of the ordinance, thanking the council for addressing their growing concerns about climate change and impact human activity and the use of fossil fuels have on our environment.

David Camp

David Camp

Susanne Croft, former Sustainability Coordinator for the city, urged the council to pass the ordinance.  She recalled the effort, time and care that was taken to draft the City’s Sustainability Plan and supported codifying the Plan by Ordinance.

A Spokane Riverkeeper representative spoke about the dramatic impact climate change has had and will continue to have on the Spokane River, the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer and the mountain snowpack which feeds the Spokane River’s summer flows.

350 Spokane’s own Jim LeTellier spoke movingly about the need to act responsibly with the environment we all share.  David Camp, another 350 Spokane leader, pointed to Spokane’s unique failure thus far to act as other northwest cities have done to acknowledge climate change, join alliances working to combat climate change and make concrete plans for future sustainability.  He urged the Council to support the Ordinance and join all the other major cities in the region in directly addressing climate change.

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A recent high school graduate spoke of his love of baseball, the Spokane Indians new Redband Trout mascot Ribi, and the Indian’s iconic Recycle Man. He asserted that Spokane is already a city that cares about the environment and endeavors to act responsibly as stewards of the natural world.  He urged Council Members to support the Ordinance,  and pointed out that it is a reflection of values the City and it’s inhabitants already express in many other ways.

Mike Petersen, Executive Director of The Lands Council, spoke in favor of the ordinance, citing forestry concerns and the ecological challenges of climate change.  Petersen clarified that the much cited Petition Project claim of “31,000 scientists” asserting that there is no proof of human impact on global warming, is grossly overinflated and that very few of the signatories are in fact climate scientists.  He added that the petition was advanced by a former tobacco industry spokesperson.

After public testimony concluded, Council Member Mike Fagan presented a Prager U video that claimed the Paris agreement would only lower global temperatures by 0.03 degree F by 2100.  One should note that Prager University is not an accredited institution.  Conservative radio host and author, Dennis Prager founded Prager University, an online resource that “produces short videos on Prager’s favorite extremist tropes.”  Financial backing is supplied by Dan and Farris Wilks.  The Wilks brothers sold their hydraulic fracturing and oilfield services company Frac Tech in 2011 for $3.5 billion.  We will not then be surprised that Prager U supplies schools and the public with speakers who undermine the goal of reducing fossil dependence in the world with distorted data and faulty logic.  Apr 30, 2015, 1:08pm Brie Shea

Fagan also presented a video of a CNN interview between Jake Tapper and Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky, in which Senator Paul used data culled from a March 2017 study, prepared by NERA Economic Consulting, that estimates the potential impact of hypothetical regulatory actions necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.  For example, Paul asserts “6.5 million American jobs would be lost due to the Paris Agreement.”  Jon Greenberg writes for Politifact, in an article “Fact-checking Donald Trump’s statement withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement” June 1, 2017, that the NERA model “makes assumptions that generate an extreme result.”  The infamous 6.5 million lost jobs estimate is based on a worst case scenario of extreme regulations in the US that are not enforced in any other nations, with no job increases at all from the clean energy sector, no benefit from renewable energy power, and no industrial adaptation to the hypothetical regulations. Yale professor Kenneth Gillingham is quoted by Greenberg, “The NERA model provides useful information, but it is important for it to be taken in context of model results from other models and not cherry-picked as was done here.”

Mike Fagan asserted that scientists at MIT had found fault with the Paris Agreement, a point that President Trump also asserted in his June 1 speech announcing the US withdraw from the Paris Agreement.  Scientific American published an article with a response from an author of the MIT study:

In fact, the MIT research to which the president referred showed that the Paris Agreement could lower the expected temperature increase by 0.6 to 1.1 C.

The Trump administration essentially pulled one piece of data out of the study and removed all context before inserting it into a factually inaccurate and entirely different claim, said John Reilly, co-director of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at MIT and author of the study. He said his study showed Paris was an important agreement that could shave off an entire degree of warming, but that climate skeptics have tried to make a similar false claim in the past. He said that if anything, the study shows an argument for remaining in Paris.

“The idea of withdrawing from it makes no sense at all,” he said.     June 2, 2017

Council member Karen Stratton said she worked for the City at the time the Sustainability Plan was developed.  She recalled that dozens of people put hundreds of hours into the creation of the Plan and worked with business, civic organizations, environmental programs and educational institutions throughout the process.  She thanked those present who had worked from 2008-09 on the plan, and supported the ordinance legislating the City’s Sustainability Plan.

Candace Mumm asked Mike Fagan if the words “global warming” were in the ordinance.  He conceded they are not.  Mumm voted for the ordinance.

Amber Waldref supported the ordinance, saying it addressed the Council’s ongoing goal to make Spokane a city where people “want to live, work and play” now and in the future.

We at 350 Spokane thank the Council Members who supported Ordinance 35519.  As you complete your ballots this election cycle and in the future, remember the bold and decisive action taken this week by Ordinance author’s Breean Beggs, Lori Kinnear, and Ben Stuckart, as well as the supportive comments and affirmative votes from Candace Mumm , Amber Waldref, and Karen Stratton.