February 20th, 2019
Health community endorses moving Washington State to 100 percent clean electricity
Health impacts of fossil fuel pollution and climate change impact most vulnerable Washingtonians
In an unprecedented show of support, medical groups representing over 15,000 Washington physicians, as well as a major health system with 15 hospitals in the state and two national health nonprofit organizations, have endorsed a strong 100% clean electricity bill in the state legislature.
Through a letter sent to members of the House and Senate fiscal committees, the groups urged legislators to pass House Bill 1211 and Senate Bill 5116, which would remove fossil fuels from the state’s electricity grid by 2045, with strong interim targets for utilities and increased energy assistance for low-income Washingtonians. The Senate bill passed out of that chamber’s Ways and Means committee on Monday and is expected to pass out of the House finance committee on Thursday, February 21st, setting up possible floor votes as soon as next week.
Organizations endorsing the bill include:
Washington State Medical Association,
Washington State Academy of Family Physicians
Providence St. Joseph Health (headquartered in Renton),
American Lung Association,
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility,
Washington State chapter of the American College of Physicians,
Health Care Without Harm.
“The health consequences of our continued dependence on fossil fuels are being felt right now and will get much worse if we fail to act,” said Dr. Mark Vossler, a Kirkland cardiologist and President of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR) “As health professionals called to prevent what we cannot cure, we have a moral duty promote legislation and regulation that will effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and co-pollutants responsible for respiratory, cardiovascular and neurologic diseases.”
“There is a critical and rapidly closing window of opportunity to try and protect the health of the citizens of Washington State from the consequences of climate change,” said Spokane physician Dr. Matt Hollon, the Governor of the Washington Chapter of American College of Physicians (ACP), which counts nearly 3000 Washington physicians as members. “That’s why our Executive Council of the Washington Chapter endorses a strong 100% Clean Energy bill, and we urge legislators to pass this critical policy.”
Dr. Vossler, a cardiologist practicing in Kirkland, said that the more rapidly we reduce emissions, the more lives we save from pollution now and the more likely we are to be able to limit warming to less than 1.5°C as specified in a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"Transitioning to 100% clean energy in Washington is essential to protect public health from air pollution and the burning of fossil fuels. It is our job to protect our patients from the health impacts of climate change," explained Gary Cohen, President and Co-Founder of Health Care Without Harm.
Dr. Tom Schaaf, president of the 11,000-member Washington State Medical Association (WSMA), said addressing climate change can improve health today. “The use of energy is essential to our everyday lives, but it should not be at the expense of our health and well-being. Physicians see the harmful effects of air pollution and climate change nearly every day,” he said. “From patients who struggle to breathe, to those who feel anxiety and stress due to extreme climate conditions that cause life-endangering events such as fire and flood, we need to prevent the dangerous outcomes of climate change with common-sense, clean-energy solutions. We support the change that will not only improve patient health today, but will create a healthier place tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.”