Washington Governor Aims at ‘Sustainable’ Future

Published May 1, 2003

Washington Governor Gary Locke on February 6 called for government-directed “sustainable” development and praised a report on sustainability strategies issued by the Sustainable Washington Advisory Panel.

Locke created the Panel as part of a September 2002 executive order calling for sustainable environmental practices by all state agencies.

While Locke said he was “extremely impressed with the work of the sustainability panel,” not all Evergreen State residents shared the Governor’s enthusiasm for the Panel’s work.

“Dangerous Arrogance”

“This unelected panel uses bad science and behavior modification as the nexus of its grand scheme,” noted Lynn Harsh, executive director of the Olympia-based Evergreen Freedom Foundation. “They propose to define waste according to their own standards and establish a zero-tolerance policy for those of us who they say make it. Then they would restructure our state’s tax policy to punish or reward us. This is dangerous arrogance!”

“The Governor’s new plan is little more than a thinly veiled excuse for imposing further controls on the economic freedoms of Washington residents,” agreed Eric Montague, policy analyst for the Seattle-based Washington Policy Center.

“By incorporating concepts like ‘social justice’ and ‘health care equitability’ into the state’s environmental plan,” Montague said, “the Governor reveals his intentions to use environmental regulation to achieve traditionally socialist ideals of income re-distribution and universal free health care.

“The true objectives of Governor Locke’s sustainability report were scarcely in doubt,” Montague noted. He points out the 25 public and private sector members of the Panel include representatives from local labor unions, environmental organizations, environmental regulatory agencies, and environmental consulting firms.

“Only a very small minority of the members could objectively be identified as representatives of the business community or the taxpaying citizens of Washington state … yet they will ultimately be asked to foot the bill for the state’s new dedication to its version of sustainability.”

All Pain, No Gain

“Society has managed to ‘sustain’ development now for approximately 3,000 years without the guidance of state planners,” said Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute. “The result is not only a society that is healthier and wealthier than any other in history, but a society with more natural resources at its disposal than ever before.

“The current Western system of free markets, property rights, and the rule of law is in fact the best hope for environmentally sustainable development,” Taylor said.

James Glassman, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed. “Sweeping programs meant to preserve, conserve, freeze and even ‘sustain’ global assets often have the opposite effect,” he warned. “Because they deter economic growth, such programs can actually make the Earth less clean and less healthy–and certainly less free of poverty.”

“The Governor’s sustainability plan will do little to improve the state’s environment,” predicted Montague. “But it will transfer considerable economic influence from the private sector to a new government bureaucracy, all at considerable additional cost to the state’s already struggling taxpayers.”

James M. Taylor is managing editor, and Diane Carol Bast is editor, of Environment & Climate News. Taylor’s email address is [email protected].

For more information …

The full text of the Sustainable Washington Advisory Panel report is available on the Internet at http://www.sustainableseattle.org/sustpanel/.