Jay Inslee isn’t one to put much stock in science—SHIFT has documented our green governor’s aversion to scientific facts time and time again. Whether it’s the deliberate use of outdated, flawed studies to justify his plans or simply ignoring verified facts to advance his political goals, Inslee has proved he will not let science stand in the way of his extreme environmental agenda.
Inslee’s use of dying oysters to prove ocean acidification—which has become his “central argument for cutting carbon emissions”—is just one example of his refusal to recognize scientific facts. As SHIFT reported in August, the New York Times profiled Inslee’s campaign to implement his carbon reduction plan. The Times wrote, “Billions of baby oysters in the Pacific inlets here are dying and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington is busy spreading the bad news.” Inslee himself stated, “It used to be the canary in the coal mine. Now it’s the oyster in the half shell. You can’t overstate what this means to Washington.”
As it turns out, the reality is not what Inslee claims. According to the Department of Ecology (DOE), the science on ocean acidification “is not there” to back up Inslee’s assertions. They add, “We do not yet know how Pacific Ocean conditions would affect Puget Sound or coastal bays.”
The Washington Policy Center (WPC) asked Mindy Roberts, “a scientist who is leading DOE’s ocean acidification research in Puget Sound,” for evidence of ocean acidification harming oysters. She “candidly admitted they simply do not have any evidence.” That’s contrary to Ecology Director Maia Bellon’s straight forward assertion on the DOE’s blog ECOconnect that “Ocean Acidification is real… Billions of oyster larvae have died over this past decade at Pacific Northwest hatcheries, and reproduction of wild Pacific oysters at Willapa Bay has declined.” The DOE reiterated Robert’s contrary point in three important ways. The WPC,
“First, they highlighted a study that claimed oysters were being impacted, Barton et al (2012), actually showed acidification levels (i.e. pH), were in the normal range of 7 – 8.5 in the waters he surveyed. Further, the harm to oyster larvae occurred in a nursery, not the natural environment. Finally, the study itself warned, as Ms. Roberts put it, “data gaps preclude extrapolation” to other areas.
“Second, Ecology is guiding an effort to improve monitoring in Puget Sound because there simply isn’t enough research or data. Conclusions, made by others, about impacts to oysters in Puget Sound, therefore, are premature, citing NOAA’s conclusion that it “is premature to conclude that acidification is responsible for the recent oyster failures.”
“Finally, with regard to the coast and Willapa Bay specifically, Ms. Roberts said that while she was not doing research there, when it comes to claiming wild oysters are being harmed due to acidification, “the research isn’t there.” That, however, is at odds with the claim made by Ecology Director Maia Bellon, who specifically claimed “reproduction of wild Pacific oysters at Willapa Bay has declined.” Ms. Roberts said to her knowledge the only research on impact to oysters in the area was the Barton study, which was in Oregon nurseries, not Washington waters.”
The WPC clarifies that the DOE scientists did not say “impact was not occurring.” Rather, the DOE made it “clear that there is no credible science to support the claim that oysters were being harmed due to ocean acidification.” In any case, based on Director Bellon’s definitive statement linking ocean acidification to oyster death, what scientists at the DOE have to say on the subject doesn’t appear to hold much ground with the department’s official position.
The same goes for our green governor. The facts have not—and will not—prevent Inslee from making his unscientific assertions in order to justify and advance his political agenda. There is a clear contradiction between scientific truth and Inslee’s truth. Which version of the truth will develop into policy may just depend on the Majority Coalition Caucus’ ability to hold the State Senate.