Ranker testifies before U.S. Senate panel

San Juan County Councilman Kevin Ranker told a U.S. Senate Subcommittee today that Washington state is especially vulnerable to the effects of global climate change and quoted a University of Washington study which estimates sea levels in the Puget Sound may rise by half a foot over the next 40 years.

"The impact of these changes will be widespread and devastating to numerous sectors of our economy," he said. In his prepared remarks, he cited coastal development, fisheries and tourism as likely to be particularly hard hit.

Ranker was the only local official asked to testify at the hearing, held at the Seattle Aquarium by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard. It's a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Ranker was invited to testify by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who chairs the parent committee. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., presided over the hearing.

Ranker cited numerous state, federal and university studies which, he said, point out devastating impacts already being felt by the salmon population, further dangers to the Puget Sound’s shellfish industry and potentially serious impacts in the large portions of the state that depend on the winter snowpack to store and release fresh water throughout the summer.

Ranker applauded what he called "bold steps" being taken under the leadership of Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state Legislature, particularly:

— A program designed to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in the state to half the level emitted in 1990 by the year 2050.

— A requirement that 2009 model cars meet more stringent clean air standards, and that emission disclosure labels be placed on new cars beginning in 2010.

— The adoption of strong energy efficiency standards for new appliances.

He also praised a variety of ongoing projects including the Puget Sound Partnership and the San Juan Initiative, which he said are leaders in researching problems and leading efforts to clean up and preserve the marine and shoreline ecosystems for the health of humans and all species that depend those environments.

Ranker concluded by calling for more federal support for the state, regional and local programs already underway in Washington, and he emphasized that he wasn’t just talking about financial support.

"Money is not enough," he said. "What we sorely need is a renewal of the kind of leadership, commitment and innovation at the federal level that — in the past — defined the United States as the leading force in protecting the environment and the planet. I hope that as we move forward we can all work together to regain that position."

In addition to serving on the San Juan County Council, Ranker chairs the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council and the Washington Coastal Counties Caucus. and is a member of the Ecosystem Coordination Board of the Puget Sound Partnership.

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