In the state of Washington, billions of baby oysters in Pacific inlets are dying and, while lobbyists and financial backers debate the cause, politicians are staking their claim in the fight.
“It used to be the canary in the coal mine,” Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said in a recent interview. “Now it’s the oyster in the half shell. You can’t overstate what this means to Washington.”
The Democratic governor, aided by what is expected to be millions of dollars from his billionaire out-of-state friend Tom Steyer, is using the story of Washington’s oysters to make the case for passing the most far-reaching climate-change policies in the nation, according to a report by The New York Times.
In 2013, Steyer’s group spent $275,000 in Washington to help ensure the election of four pro-environment candidates to the local council in Whatcom County, where candidates normally spend less than $25,000 for a single race.
As a result, prospects are now dim for council approval of a proposed $600 million port in Whatcom near the border with British Columbia, which, if constructed, would facilitate the shipment of 48 million tons of coal annually to Asia from Montana and Wyoming, according to the Times.
The port would be a lifeline for the states’ coal producers, who anticipate the shutdown of American coal-fired power plants because of emissions limits proposed by the Obama administration.