Gregoire talks up green achievements in final speech as Wash. governor

Source: Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013

Outgoing Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire touted myriad accomplishments that would qualify her for several top posts in the Obama administration — including U.S. EPA chief — in her final address yesterday.

The Democrat has been widely rumored to be under consideration for a handful of posts, including EPA and the Interior, Energy and Transportation departments if their current leaders leave (Greenwire, Jan. 8)

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced he will leave the administration today (see related story).

Gregoire, a former head of Washington’s Department of Ecology, touted several key initiatives, including her efforts to restore the Puget Sound, in her final State of the State address.

“It’s very clear,” she said, “No other state has what we have.”

Her work on the Puget Sound is widely regarded as her chief environmental achievement, and she highlighted it as the state’s “jewel” and the “economic engine” of western Washington.

“We created a partnership among local, state and federal governments, tribes and stakeholders to get it done,” she said.

Further, the two-term governor noted her work on water issues, such as new water markets and banking to create flexibility and protection for “fish-critical basins.”

It is unclear whether President Obama will nominate a replacement for outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson anytime soon. Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe will take over the role on an acting basis; he can remain in that post for most of a year before Obama would have to nominate a replacement.

If Obama chooses to tap a successor to Jackson, the administration would undoubtedly face a heated confirmation process in the Senate. Other possibilities besides Gregoire and Perciasepe include current EPA air chief Gina McCarthy; Kathleen McGinty, who led President Clinton’s White House Council on Environmental Quality and was Pennsylvania’s environment secretary; California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols; and Daniel Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (E&E Daily, Dec. 28, 2012).

Gregoire’s speech also touched on topics that relate to other potential administration posts. On energy, for example, she touted the state’s hydropower industry, as well as wind power.

When she took office in 2005, the state produced no wind power.

“Today, we are among the top five wind-energy producers,” she said. “We are pioneering the smart grid and have a strong presence in the solar power supply chain.”

She added: “Clean, renewable energy has been our unique history for 80 years. Today, we are No. 1 in the nation in renewable energy.”

Gregoire has also been mentioned as a possible replacement for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood is suspected to be leaving the administration in the coming months but has yet to make an announcement.

Gregoire noted that her administration “made the best decisions for transportation,” including a “historic” 2005 construction package that was ratified by voters.

Washington state also imposed a voter-endorsed gas tax, which funded 421 statewide projects. Nearly 90 percent of those projects are finished, and most are also under budget, Gregoire said.