Tags: Climate Change | Billionaire | Thomas Steyer | climate change | Washington

Billionaire Steyer Continues Climate Change Fight

Image: Billionaire Steyer Continues Climate Change Fight
Co-Founder of Advanced Energy Economy Tom Steyer. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 28 Oct 2014 02:04 PM

Billionaire Democratic donor Thomas Steyer has poured millions of dollars into Washington state legislative races in a bid to flip control of the Legislature to Democrats who would support Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's climate change agenda.

According to The New York Times, $4.2 million has so far been spent by independent groups on the state's top 10 legislative races, $1 million dollars more than 2012, making it the most expensive legislative election in the state's history.

Of that expenditure, Steyer's PAC, Nextgen Climate Action, has contributed $1.25 million to Democrats to try to win the needed net gain of two seats to secure the majority in the Senate.

"[Climate change] is an issue that the campaigns probably wouldn't be addressing without for this outside money coming in," Travis Ridout, a professor of government and public policy at Washington State University, told the Times. "Steyer has sort of forced campaigns to talk about this."

Democrats control Washington's House of Representatives but lost control of the Senate after the 2012 election. As a result, many of Inslee's environmental proposals have been stalled. His proposals include stronger measures to fight global warming, including an executive order for utilities to reduce the use of electricity produced by coal. He also issued an order for the state's government fleet of vehicles to increase the use of alternative fuels, the Times reported.

In addition, a task force has been working on outlining a range of legislative policies which could include a carbon tax and other proposals to try to get energy-based industries to switch from carbon.

The complexity of discussing environmental issues has made candidates from both parties shy about making it a central issue of their campaigns, but with Steyer's money, the Times said, "climate has been put on the table, if not quite offered as the main course."

"We want to make climate change a local issue," Nextgen Climate spokesman Bobby Whithorne told the Times.

Republicans have different views about how a Democratic focus on climate change during the campaign could play out, but all appear to agree that there are drawbacks.

According to the Times, some in the GOP believe that the heightened focus on the issue could inadvertently benefit Republicans if Democratic candidates are seen to be too focused on that issue at the expense of other issues that are of greater concern to voters.

Republican state party chairwoman Susan Hutchinson had a different view. She said she believes voters will be repelled by the emphasis on climate issues because Washington is already one of the most environmentally friendly, low carbon-emissions states in the country. A push for further measures, such as increases in taxes, she said, could hurt residents.

"With Steyer's very radical environmental agenda, we've got the possibility of gas costing a dollar more per gallon," Hutchinson said, according to the Times. "It would profoundly hurt our middle-class working families."

Nexgen Climate is also making expenditures in state legislative races in Oregon, California, and Iowa, according to the Times.

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Billionaire Democratic donor Thomas Steyer has poured millions of dollars into Washington state legislative races in a bid to flip control of the Legislature to Democrats who would support Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's climate change agenda.
Billionaire, Thomas Steyer, climate change, Washington
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2014-04-28
Tuesday, 28 Oct 2014 02:04 PM
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