Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire wants state government to be carbon-neutral by 2020, and announced the Department of Ecology would be the first agency to start enacting measures to lessen its carbon footprint.
Gregoire said she has asked the head of Ecology to develop business practices and strategies toward that goal and to act as a model for other agencies, as well as for businesses and homes.
"It's one thing for us to talk about climate change and to look at federal legislation, but if we're not keeping our own house in order that's a problem," Gregoire said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. "There's a lot of opportunity for us to save money."
Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said strategies for reducing Ecology's carbon footprint are likely to include buying electric vehicles when they are available and when the infrastructure to support them exists, increasing the use of renewable energy, and increasing the elimination of waste and turning waste into resources.
"We're going to look at what others are doing, we'll harvest good ideas, we'll try them out," he said. "Change is needed, it's coming, and it will help to show people it doesn't have to be scary or expensive."
Sturdevant told Gregoire that he would have a report for her by the end of January on what initial steps the agency has taken.
Gregoire recently returned from Copenhagen, where she attended the U.N. climate summit.
Gregoire said she, along with Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, made sure others at that summit knew "that many states were working on climate issues and making real progress."
The governor also announced the state's receipt of $5 million in stimulus money to help businesses, nonprofit groups and government agencies pay for energy efficiency retrofits in residential, commercial, nonprofit, and low-income housing facilities.
The Department of Commerce will distribute the money to several groups, including Avista Utilities in Spokane, the cities of Bellingham and Seattle, and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
Grant recipients will team with banks and other financial institutions that will help them with an expected $50 million in loans for energy-efficiency projects for homeowners and businesses, Gregoire said.