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Lord, Rockefeller clash on the environment

BREMERTON — Candidates for the 23rd Legislative District’s senate seat drew stark distinctions over global warming and renewable energy in a candidate forum in Bremerton Tuesday.

A crowd of about 40 was on hand to see Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge) and Connie Lord (R-Poulsbo) go head-to-head in the Eggs and Issues forum, which also touched on government spending, business development and ferries.

In response to a citizen’s question about how the candidates would invest in renewable energy in response to climate change, Lord said the “science is still out” on global warming.

“I know there are passionate people that say it’s a done deal we know exactly what’s going on. But we don’t know exactly,” Lord said.

She said the state should encourage the private sector to combat carbon emissions and develop renewable energy sources. She said she would support renewable resources like wind and solar, and said hydroelectric needs to be included in the conversation.

She criticized Rockefeller’s sponsorship of House Bill 2815, which sets a target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 with an emissions cap and sale program, and reducing vehicle miles driven in the state. The bill also supports the creation of “green jobs” in environmental industries.

Lord said the bill would cost $2 billion each year, and burden them with undue regulation. And, she said, “Nobody can even define what a green job is.”

Rockefeller said the science supporting global warming is “overwhelmingly clear.”

“It’s showing up in adverse affects on our water supply, forest fires, the general health of our forest and many other ways,” he said.

Rockefeller said the $2 billion figure quoted for HB 2815 included wages for new green collar jobs, which would be a benefit rather than a burden. He agreed that the private sector needs to be included in the process but said the state needs to begin a rapid transition away from fossil fuel dependence.

Rockefeller said solar, wind, tide and geothermal energy production have already created thousands of green collar jobs in the state.

Lord used response time to a later question to revisit climate change.

“I think it’s very arrogant, at the taxpayer’s cost, to think the state of Washington can actually make any kind of significant difference in global warming,” Lord said. “It’s fine for us to be approaching conservation, it’s wonderful for us to be trying to have alternative energy sources, those are all wonderful, sensible approaches to the energy crises.”

Candidates were questioned on another national, hot-button issue: women’s reproductive rights.

Lord said she believes life begins at conception, and said a baby’s right to life must be considered. Rockefeller said women have the right to make choices about pregnancy in private.

Lord told the crowd that she was running for senate in part to rein in state spending. She touted her record of helping balance budgets as a Poulsbo city council member and deputy mayor.

Rockefeller touted his experience as a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, and said the Legislature was successful in stowing away a $400 million rainy day fund.

A number of questions concerned support of business.

Rockefeller was asked to explain why the Association of Washington Business had given his voting record a low score on its Legislative Report Card. Rockefeller said he doesn’t believe AWB speaks for the entire business community, and that a number of businesses are supporting his campaign.

He said he had worked with AWB and other business organizations to use collaboration and incentives, rather than regulations, in efforts to clean up Puget Sound.

Lord said fees and taxes have quashed entrepreneurship in the state.

She said she would support reforming the Department of Labor and Industries and the Business and Occupations tax.

Candidates spoke briefly on Washington State Ferries.

Rockefeller said he supported a freeze in ferry fares, and advocates raising WSF’s gas tax revenue from one half of a cent to a full cent.

“I believe that that is a responsible way of using existing resources to help re-capitalize the ferry system,” he said.

Lord said the state needs to implement the recommendations of an audit by State Auditor Brian Sonntag, which found overspending by WSF. She said commuters shouldn’t have the burden of subsidizing the system through fares.

Both candidates said ferries need to be recognized as a part of the state highway system.

“If we treat it as a marine highway, just like we treat another road, we’ll find the funding,” Lord said.

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