Washington governor criticized over climate bill veto

Washington Governor Jay Inslee
Ted S. Warren
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee looks down at a stack of bills to be signed into law, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

SEATTLE (AP) — Tribal leaders and some state legislators in Washington state have criticized Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in a joint statement on Friday after he vetoed a bill that would require improved consultation with tribes about climate investments made under the act.

Inslee said the bill required tribal consent for some climate projects involving their interest, and does “not properly recognize the mutual, sovereign relationships between tribal governments and the state,” The Seattle Times reported.

National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp, who is also vice president of the Quinault Indian Nation, said in the statement that Inslee “committed the most egregious and shameless betrayal of a deal I have ever witnessed from a politician.”

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She added: “After using and exploiting Tribal Nation’s political capital to pass his climate bill, Jay Inslee made the cowardly decision on the day of the bill’s signing to ambush Tribal leaders by suddenly vetoing all Tribal consultation requirements and all protections for Native American sacred sites and burial grounds that his office and the State Legislature had negotiated as a condition of the bill’s passage.”

The statement was sent by Jaime Martin, executive director of governmental affairs and special projects for the Snoqualmie Tribe.

Mike Faulk, a spokesperson for Inslee, said in an email on Friday that the provision “was written so broadly that would have made it possible to challenge just about any related project anywhere in the state.”

Faulk also said there were a number of provisions for tribes that were still in the bill and that many state agencies, state policies and federal laws have additional mandates as to tribal consultation.

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Snoqualmie Tribe Chair Robert de los Angeles and Suquamish Tribe Chair Leonard Forsman also criticized the veto. As did Democratic state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks committee, and Democratic state Rep. Mike Chapman, chairman of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Inslee said he will convene tribal leaders to negotiate new bill language to replace the vetoed provision. But Sharp disagreed with the idea, saying that she would not participate in any process that validates his “delusional belief that he has authority of sovereign tribes.”

Jeremy Takala, a member of the Yakama tribal council, said tribes were counting on the language in the energy bill to protect their treaty gathering rights, which are just as important as salmon harvest in the Columbia River.

“Is this next go round going to be now for our medicines and our roots and our sacred sites and cultural sites?” Takala said. “I feel like that is the direction this may be going.”


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