Washington's climate push to get outside help

Five years ago, Washington's Legislature set a goal to reduce carbon house emissions by 2020. With no developments since, the state is looking for an extra pair of hands.
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Gov. Jay Inslee talks to the media during a Hanford visit.

Five years ago, Washington's Legislature set a goal to reduce carbon house emissions by 2020. With no developments since, the state is looking for an extra pair of hands.

A legislative task force is on the brink of hiring Science Application International Corp. to help Washington map out a climate change master plan. 

SAIC of Tyson Corner, Va., is a huge science-and-engineering corporation that chiefly focuses on federal defense work, but also tackles energy, environmental and health projects. 

On Tuesday, a five-person committee that includes Gov. Jay Inslee voted 5-0 to hire SAIC, pending the corporation answering some questions today about whether the proposed contract should include examining what would happen if Washington takes no actions to combat climate change.

"We've got to evaluate the costs of different actions we might take and the different inactions we might take," said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island and member of the task force. The task force consists of Inslee, Ranker, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien.  

The proposed contract will likely be between $334,000 and $350,000, which is the range of the bids of the five finalists. If SAIC is picked this week, its bid will be made public.

In 2008, Washington's Legislature set a goal of reducing the state's greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and trimming emissions to 25 percent below the 1990 level by 2035. So far, nothing has happened. Inslee successfully lobbied the Legislature to set up a task force to map out how those goals can be reached. The task force is supposed to have recommendations by the end of 2013.

Climate change and ocean acidification are major issues for Inslee. He has argued that carbon emissions will likely cost Washington's economy $10 billion by 2020 due to increased health costs, smaller snowpacks feeding irrigated croplands, greenhouse gases acidifying the ocean and killing shellfish larvae, higher temperatures raising the risk of forest fires, and higher sea levels pushing more salt water into coastal water treatment plants. Today, the Earth's oceans are 30 percent more acidic than they were in the 18th century. That figure is expected to reach 150 percent by the end of the 21st century.

Fourteen firms answered a request for proposals to provide technical assistance to the task force. The companies with the five best proposals were interviewed Tuesday by Inslee and the task force. The five companies were SAIC, ICF International of Fairfax, Va., Energetics Inc. of Columbia, Md., the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions of Arlington, Va., and Tetra Tech Inc. of Pasadena, Calif.

SAIC and ICF posted the best scores when the task force's staff evaluated the 14 proposals — each scoring 160 out of a possible 200 points when looking at their technical approaches, managerial expertise and costs. 

The task force liked both SAIC and ICF, but leaned toward SAIC mostly because it would provide a larger staff capable of broader approaches. SAIC has roughly 44,000 employees — mostly in defense work — and posted $10.6 billion in revenue in 2012 with $59 million in income that year.

For exclusive coverage of the state Legislature, check out Crosscut's Olympia 2013 page.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8