“This man works for us. We do not pay him to give us false information..”
The Democratic governor’s office told HuffPost that he hasn’t yet received any response to his comments from Zinke — or from the White House.
A frustrated Inslee criticized Zinke during a visit to a Seattle elementary school, where he talked about protecting Washington’s environment, climate change, and the air pollution being triggered by ongoing wildfires, the Seattle newspaper reported.
He upbraided Zinke for downplaying the role of climate change and blaming “extreme environmentalists” for the ever-worsening fire seasons in the West. “With climate change, you have a hotter, drier climate, Mr. Zinke. You have fires,” Inslee said. “What is there about this that you cannot comprehend?”
He added: “This man works for us. We do not pay him to give us false information. We get enough of that from the president.”
Inslee, surrounded by schoolchildren, scoffed that Zinke would “flunk any science test that these kids take,” the news outlet reported.
Inslee expanded on his comments about Zinke and his grandchildren to HuffPost on Friday. “Given the damage being done to our grandchildren’s future and his refusal to act against climate change, I call for Secretary Zinke to resign,” the governor said in a statement.
Zinke was instrumental in gutting Utah’s Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The public lands stripped of protection are now open to private logging, drilling and mining operations. (The Trump administration reportedly just scrapped a proposal to sell off more than 1,600 acres of previously protected land at Grand Staircase-Escalante.)
The governor’s harsh comments came in the wake of Zinke’s controversial trip to California communities devastated by wildfires last Sunday. The Interior secretary said that the solution to fires was to remove trees and that California was burning because environmentalists were keeping loggers out of public forests.
Earlier in the month, Donald Trump in a tweet blamed the state’s “environmental laws” — the most protective in the nation — and accused California of wasting water for firefighting by “diverting” it to the Pacific Ocean (where the state’s water naturally flows). California fire officials responded that they had plenty of water from lakes where the fires were burning. Trump also urged: “Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”
Critics have accused both Trump and Zinke of weaponizing the tragedy of the wildfires to open up national forests to logging companies and to pressure California to give more water to its Central Valley farmers, where the Republican Party holds much of its support. Trump has yet to issue a word of condolence to the families of fire victims, nor a word of comfort to people whose homes and communities have been devastated.
Inslee spoke out at the Seattle school and in interviews Thursday to push for Initiative 1631, a climate change measure on Washington’s November ballot that would make the state the first in the nation to charge polluters a fee for the right to release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
“We need to attack climate change at its source, which is carbon pollution, and fortunately we have a way to do that,” Inslee said in a KOMO-TV Channel 4 interview.
Inslee, referring to increased pollution in the Seattle area due to wildfire smoke, added: “Remember this smoke because where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and where there’s climate change, there’s a lot more forest on fire … we are now breathing in climate change.”