#4 | Jay Manning - From Legal Activist to Chief of Staff
Please find the transcript with Jay Manning, partner at Cascadia Law Group, an environmental law firm, based in Olympia, Washington, in the US.
I hope you enjoy the episode!
Cascadia Law Group website: https://www.cascadialaw.com/
Cascadia policy solutions: http://cascadiapolicy.com/
Pacific Coast Collaborative: http://pacificcoastcollaborative.org/
International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification: https://www.oaalliance.org/
Project Drawdown by Paul Hawken: http://bit.ly/2HKyxhR
The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes: http://bit.ly/2HMzzKc
Hey, did you know the U.S. federal government spends two billion dollars per year cleaning up the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere?
This is Daniel Hartz with Sustainability Matters Today, a podcast where I showcase sustainability experts and discover their journeys. The aim of these conversations is to share ideas from leaders in the field on the financial benefits of adopting Eco-friendly methodologies. Can it really be cost effective to go greener? Through these talks, we also discuss ways you as an individual can incorporate environmentally friendly practices into your daily life.
In this episode, my guest is Jay Manning, partner at Cascadia Law Group, an environmental law firm based in Olympia, Washington, in the U.S. In addition to working as an environmental attorney, Jay was the chief of staff for Washington Governor Christine Gregoire from 2009 to 2011. He was the director of the Department of Ecology, where he helped clean up and restore the Puget Sound and passed a bill on water management. Recently, Jay helped create and now currently supports the Pacific Coast Collaborative, a partnership between the states of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while spurring the economy.
We discussed the economic opportunities governments have when they adopt environmentally friendly policies. We cover Jay's experience of working with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to make a positive impact on the environment.
From there, Jay describes his involvement at COP 21, where the Paris agreement was signed. Jay believes we have the capabilities to reverse climate change right now and hopes we're able to take advantage of these advancements in technology.
Let's jump in!
Daniel Hartz: I'm excited to be speaking with Jay Manning, joining us today from Olympia, Washington in the US. Jay is a partner at Cascadia Law Group, a leading environmental law firm that focuses on areas such as climate change, energy and water quality. Thank you for joining me, Jay.
Jay Manning: Very happy to join you.
Daniel Hartz: Great! So, Jay, the purpose of this podcast is to ask sustainability experts like yourself about the importance of the work you're doing and to get your advice on how adopting greener policies and practices can actually be cost effective for governments, companies and individuals.
So, I'd like to ask about how you got started in this field, the landmark legal cases you've worked on your current role and suggestions for simple and sustainable things people listening to this podcast can do today make a positive difference in the environment. How does that sound?
Jay Manning: That sounds great.
Daniel Hartz: Excellent. So, first of all, you had an extraordinary career working in many aspects of environmental policy and law.
I'm looking forward to digging into the specifics of all of that. But before we do, can you tell me why you wanted to get into the sustainability field?
Jay Manning: Well, I have a set of parents who really enjoyed getting outdoors and we didn't have a whole lot of money when I was a kid. So camping was our standard summer, spring, and fall vacation. And so we get out together and enjoy the outdoors. And it just resonated with me right from the start. I loved it and I still love it. And I just had an affinity for the natural world and really would love to. I knew I wanted to do something in that field. I really liked life sciences. I wasn't particularly good at them, but I liked them; I thought they were very interesting.
And I was in school as a grade school or junior high student when the big environmental movement of the 70s sort of swept over us. And I was aware of that and I just knew that's the field I want to work in. And I had a scary but ultimately helpful experience. When I was in high school, my friend and I went and toured the University of Washington's Oceanography School, all on our own. We didn't tell the school we're doing that. We just wandered over there. We've lived across the bay. And we ended up in the student lounge in the basement. And there was a student who was obviously struggling. And he sized us up and asked with great contempt, "So, who are you to?". And we told them and you said, "So, are you the two best math students in your high school?". And the friend that was with probably was one of the best math students in our high school. And I certainly wasn't. And I said, "No". And he said, "Well, then you can forget it. You're never going to make it here!".
And I was crushed at the time. But it got me thinking about, "You're not that great at math. You're probably not going to be a marine biologist. How can you do this work and be successful?". And I had thought about it in the back of my mind. I thought about while school. And I wasn't even sure at the time if there was such a thing as environmental law. But I thought maybe there is. And if there is, maybe that's how I can work in this field.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, I can certainly relate to that. I'm definitely not good at math at all. So I can certainly understand wanting to do something into some kind of science related, but just not having sort of the mathematical or “scientifical” chops.
Was there a moment when you realized specifically that you wanted to work promoting sustainability, it was something important to you, or is it just something that kind of naturally you always knew or how did that work?
Jay Manning: Well, it's funny. When I went off to undergraduate school, I remember filling out the form for what do you want to major in among many other questions. And I was a runner at the time. I ran track and cross country. And I loved it! And it was a big part of my life. I was running in college and so I was thinking I'll probably be a track coach and a teacher. But I saw the box for free law and I thought, know, I'll just check this box. And when it doesn't work out, I'll switch back to what I'm really going to do, which is to be a track coach.
And it just kept working one step at a time. And then I got into law school, University of Oregon with a really good environmental program. And I made it through law school barely. But I did and I may have they just got me completely fired up that yes, indeed, there is something called environmental law. And I was and I took courses in that area and super interesting. Every other area of law to me is absolutely stultifying and I could never do it.
But this area of law I like and I've really enjoyed it. And probably the luckiest event in my entire professional career was when I knew I was going to go to work for the attorney general's office in Washington state.
So, those are the attorneys that represent the state of Washington. And they have a group of lawyers that corresponds to all of the major areas of work that the state does, one of which is environmental. And I happen to look into a position with the division that represented the Department of Ecology, which is sort of the EPA equivalent, Environmental Protection Agency equivalent at the state level. And it was there was a great fit right from the start. And I remember thinking I can't believe they're paying me to do this. I would do this for free.
And it was just really a great fit from the start. And I lucked into some big cases and projects that allowed me to do some important things fairly early on. And so that was one of the difference makers in my career that I got in that position right out of law school.
Daniel Hartz: That's really impressive. And I guess it was one of those things that just cemented it and from then on, you just knew. So if we fast forward a bit, if you're reading your bio, one of the most impressive things that stands out is that you were the chief of staff for Washington, Governor Christine Gregoire from 2009 to 2011.
And during that time, you also headed the Natural Resources, Energy and Climate Sub-cabinets, among some other ones. I'm curious, what were you able to accomplish there when you were heading those sub-cabinets and being the chief of staff?
Jay Manning: Well, that was quite an experience to be the chief-of-staff, from the beginning of my career from 1983 to 2005, I was a lawyer. I practiced law. It was environmental law. But I practiced law. And then Chris Greg, where I had been elected governor and I had worked with her in the attorney-general's office. She had been my client at the Department of Ecology for a while. And she appointed me to head up the state agency, the Department of Ecology. So I went from being one of their lawyers to being the head of the agency, and while she was governor.
And so that four and a half years from 2005, 2010 was a great time. We got we got a bunch of important work done on climate, on restoring Puget Sound to good health, on air quality. It was a really we have the votes in the legislature and we were able to pass a lot of important legislation and do a lot of important things. And then I was thinking, well, what should I do next and Governor Gregoire asked me to be her chief -of-staff. And the chief-of-staff in in the state of Washington is sort of like the governor's right hand person. And then you do a lot of things that the governor would do but doesn't have time or is doing other things. And so it was a very powerful position. And I was absolutely flabbergasted that I found myself there.
And for the first time in my life, I had everything the state does was within my purview and not just environmental by any means. And it was really hard because I always pretty soon after I started with the attorney general as I was, I always felt like I had a pretty good handle on the substance of what I'm doing. But when I got to chief-of-staff on any given day, I could be working on a criminal justice issue or an education issue or a health care issue, and those I haven't worked on. And so I really felt like I have a very steep learning curve. And that was hard.
There was a hard time. And that was the recession. That was the Great Recession, the worst economic time in the United States since the Great Depression. So unfortunately, it was a time, I mean, in some ways, unfortunately, fortunately, Governor Gregoire was the governor at that very difficult time. And I think she handled it better than any governor that I'm aware of could have handled that. She understood state governments. She understood the budget. She understood revenue challenges and was the right governor to be in that seat.
And frankly, we spent 95 percent of our time in that might two years as chief of staff working on the budget. We, unlike the federal government states, can't borrow money and run a deficit. You have to run a balanced budget by constitution, at least Washington does. I think most states do. And if we'd had the option of borrowing money and running a deficit, we would have. But we didn't have that option. So we had to cut, you know, something like 20 percent of the state's budget. And that was a lot of people, a lot of programs. I remember having to call time out in budget meetings because too many people were crying and it was that bad.
So, it felt to me like we didn't accomplish much in terms of forward progress. But we got the state through one of the hardest times it's ever had. And we were the right people to be there at the time. The accomplishments, the positive accomplishments, for my time in that in those roles was the previous four years when I was the director of the Department of Ecology. And there we made tremendous progress. It's still reverberating across the state, I think, in terms, again, of cleaning up and restoring Puget Sound to good health. That's a huge issue here in Washington state climate that we just sort of started into working on climate change when I was the director.
And then we passed a bill having to do with water, and how water is managed, and how water is allocated to users and I didn't think that piece of legislation was going to be that significant. But it has turned out to be the most significant of everything that we did. And it really changed in some basins where there where water was characterized by litigation, antagonism, disagreements. And we've changed those basins and we now have the environmental community, and our Native American tribes, and our farmers working together on how to manage water so that everybody gets what they need. And if it's a drought year, we all sort of suffer together. And it's been an amazing transformation and something I'm really proud of.
Daniel Hartz: I'm sure it must be amazing to have work that you still look back and you know that you were a key component of it and a key reason why it's there and people are still benefiting from it.
Jay Manning: It is amazing and it surprises me just about every day that I've been able to have this kind of an impact.
And I do want to say to your listeners that there's nothing special about me. I grew up a poor kid in a household where we didn't have much. But my parents really stressed the importance of education and demonstrated every day the importance of work. We learned those lessons and I'm moderately intelligent, but moderate is the right word. I'm not real well, but I know how to work and I know how to put a strategy together and I know how to work with people. And if I can do it, if I can have the impact that I've had, then a lot of people can do it.
And I've been lucky--Luck has played a big part in how it has played out. But if I tell, I meet with young people looking at, you know, having this conversation, what should I do for my career? I want to work in the environmental field. What should I do? And what my main piece of advice is: If you really want to work in this field, then don't let somebody talk you out of it because they'll try. They'll tell you that there's not much money, there's not a lot of jobs. Well, that's neither of those is true. There you can make an honest living and you can be successful and you can make a difference if you really are determined to do so.
And I think people who do end up falling away and doing something else, I regret that. I wish more people would push their way into this field and have a big impact, because if I can do it and really probably anybody can do it.
Daniel Hartz: That's very encouraging. And I think it's very true. And it's interesting. I mean, not to go too off topic, but in terms of financial opportunities in sustainability or in environmentalism, I've listened to a podcast earlier today where someone was saying that California is looking to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
So if you think the entire state needs to go 100 percent renewable, what is the infrastructure that needs to be put in place in order for that to happen? And that's jobs. All of that is job, that's companies, those are opportunities. I think as people are becoming more and more aware of the importance of becoming sustainable and know this concept of draw down and the negative effects of climate change and how important it is that we reverse that. I think businesses will start to come up and there is going to be plenty of financial opportunities.
Jay Manning: Well, I couldn't agree more. I remember talking to a big audience back in 2007. I think about climate. It was for a state to do something about climate change. That was a pretty new concept at the time and we were starting to push our way into that. And my argument was, you know, the impact of climate change unabated, unmitigated, will be so disruptive and disruptive in every way. People are going to die. Ecosystems are going to suffer. Economies are going to suffer. And on the other hand, if we get out ahead of this and we start the transformation to a zero carbon economy, we're a leader, there's no telling how big that economic opportunity is. It's in its trillions and trillions of dollars.
And at the time, it felt very doable. It felt very logical. It felt like we were going to roll forward and make that kind of progress. Unfortunately, the planet hasn't made that kind of progress, and neither has Washington state. And we have a lot more to do. Climate is the big issue out there. There's only one issue bigger in my mind than climate change. And that is really the underlying cause of climate change and all the other environmental problems that we have.
And it goes right to the heart of your podcast that it's about sustainability. That if we practice, we as a species and we as a country, we as a state, as a city, as a household, as an individual, if we lived our life and made our decisions and sustainability was right in front of us and always the sort of north star for our decision making, we wouldn't even be here. We wouldn't be in a place where climate change is threatening us the way it is. And so that to me is the is the big trillion dollar question is, can human beings make that transition to sustainability?
And I think your point earlier about economic opportunity that comes with sustainability, I think that's critically important, that people recognize that opportunity is real and the smart folks are going to go out there and grab onto it and the laggards are going to get left behind. And the current administration, the Trump administration, the US, is going to put us in a position of trying to put us in a position of being the big loser in this global contest by putting us into this, you know, pro-fossil fuel position pretty much all by ourselves and everybody else going to start making this transition and is already started.
We on the west coast of the United States, we have completely rejected the Trump administration model and we are working our way towards a zero carbon economy. And all indications, so far, are that there is absolutely nothing inconsistent between a robust economy and a zero carbon economy. I think those two go hand in hand and in the long term, they certainly are necessary to each other.
And so, I'm proud of what we're doing here on the West Coast. I am horrified at our federal government. I'm really looking forward to wishing them bon voyage and get them out of office, because what they're doing is really a travesty.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, that's something that I've been thinking about as well. And I think it dovetails very nicely into what you're currently working on, which is that Pacific Coast collaborative, and that's something that you helped launch and you're now supporting on or supporting, rather. And that brings together the governors of California, Oregon and Washington, as well as the premier of British Columbia and Canada to continue to grow the economies of these states and regions while simultaneously protecting the environment.
And I guess the point of the PCC, Pacific Coast Collaborative, is the fact that they are not mutually exclusive. But I'm curious to know, I mean, how do you grow an economy while also protecting the environment?
Jay Manning: Well, I think, I mean, I'm glad you brought up the PCC. It's something that I have been part of since it was created in 2008 when I was the head of the Environmental Agency in Washington. And then when I left the state government in 2011 and went into private practice, I was hired to be part of the support team for the PCC, as you mentioned. And I've been doing that from 2011 till right up to today.
And, you know, I was there when it was formed and I wasn't very convinced that it was going to be a big deal, that it was going to have sort of a political announcement and not much of substance would happen. But at the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California and a guy named David Campbell was the premier of British Columbia. And of course, there was a Republican, Campbell was part of the Conservative Party, which is essentially the Republicans for Canada. But both of them were big climate hawks. Both of them believed that climate was a huge problem and we needed to make to get, you know, reduce CO2.
Quickly, and the two of them really hit it off and they were competitive with each other and they started under the guise of the PCC advancing climate policies in both of their jurisdictions at a breakneck clip and in a really serious way, and Oregon and Washington have always struggled to keep up with those two. And that really put some substance into the PCC in a way that surprised me. And then when I got out of the governor's office and started working with the PCC, we have survived now a number of new governors coming in. And each of the governors that has come in and premiers have been very supportive of the PCC and really want to continue to show, as you say.
The premise here is you can reduce carbon emissions, you can stabilize the climate, and you can grow your economy. And there is nothing inconsistent about those goals. And the facts speak for themselves in combination. Those four jurisdictions have the fifth biggest economy in the world. And the growth, the economic growth rate, the unemployment rate, all of those sort of most important indicators of a healthy economies show that this West Coast region has outperformed the rest of the United States by a margin for the last decade.
So as we have been doing things like putting a price on carbon emissions and requiring renewables, like you say, 100 percent clean. Washington just passed the very same bill--hundred percent clean in Washington. Oregon is going to pass this. Most likely passed the same bill this session. And D.C. already has that policy in place. So, we will, I think well before 2045, we will have all electricity generation on the West Coast will be renewable or carbon or otherwise carbon free. And it's not going to crater our economy, it's going to create all sorts of opportunities to get into the renewables business. And we're going to do it. We're going to need the same amount of power, although hopefully, we'll be very careful with our conservation investments.
But we just are going to get it from a different source. And a source that doesn't have CO2 emissions associated with it, doesn't have conventional air pollutants associated with it, and is renewable indefinitely. And if it's what if we lived by a notion of sustainability was our North Star on all decision making, this would have happened a long time ago. And the fossil fuel companies are powerful and skillful, and they are going to do everything they can possibly do to make sure we burn every molecule of fossil fuel that currently exists on the planet. And then they'll support going to renewables. Their ad campaigns are bald-face lies when they describe themselves interested in renewables. They're not. Well, they are, but their only interest in renewables once they burn all the fossil fuels. And we simply cannot do that.
We have to leave almost all of the fossil fuels that are currently in the ground. We have to leave them there forever. And that's the oil companies are the last thing they want. And it's time for the people on this planet and the people in our country and the people in Washington state to say, "You know what? Oil companies don't round the world. We do. And we are going to leave those fossils in the ground. We're going to move to a low and then no carbon economy and we're going to do just fine economically".
Daniel Hartz: I think that's very important. And I'm curious to know, I mean, as part of the PCC, just going back to this point, you have the opportunity to go to COP 21, the U.N. climate talks in 2015 on behalf of the PCC. That's a first for anyone who may not know, COP 21 is the conference that negotiated the Paris agreement. So, first of all, just as a baseline, could you please outline what the Paris agreement was designed or is designed to achieve?
Jay Manning: Yes. So, the Paris agreement is the most important international agreement by which virtually every country in the world has agreed to limit their own carbon emissions that occur within their country; Carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.
To a point that we will limit warming on the planet to at most, 2 degrees. But we do have a goal of keeping it at one point five. So that's the goal is let's limit warming to one point five degrees. And you know, everybody who signed up to that is working at it, you know, some more serious than others. There are some that aren't making as much progress as we would want. And the overall progress of aggregated progress is not what we want. We have to accelerate this process in every country and even the best, even the Scandinavian countries, even France and even the West Coast states in the United States and British Columbia, we all have to do better. We all have to accelerate our decarbonization effort.
And then there are some governments like the United States, the current administration, that decided to pull out of the Paris agreement and just a terribly embarrassing decision by this administration. It puts us, I mean, we are alone in the world. We are the only country in the world that is not committed to the Paris agreement. And that to me, and that alone, there's so many reasons that this administration should be shown the door. But that alone is a really big one.
Daniel Hartz: All right. It's interesting that the U.S. is literally the only one that has decided to make that every other country has agreed to at least be a part of it. I guess my question is also, you know, do you believe that this agreement can actually move the needle on how countries approach climate change and curbing carbon emissions and other greenhouse gas emissions?
Jay Manning: Yeah, I do believe it. I think it has to be more rigorous than it is right now. So that was 2014. It was signed 2015. We have not made the kind of progress that we need to make so far. But I think a global agreement that has the, this is the destination, we're going to limit warming to one point five degrees. And we're into implementation now.
It doesn't surprise me. This is a big transition: if to move from fossil fuels to and to a renewables based energy system. That's a big change. And it's when we have opposition. So, we have to stick with this agreement. We have to beef it up. We have to have this. There's a there's a cop every year. A cop is a conference of the parties from the U.N. and this year's cop is in Santiago, Chile. And I hope to be there. And I'm hoping that the international negotiators from all of these countries except us will beef up the agreement.
They have the ability to do that every year and to monitor results and then beef up the agreement to make it stronger and more robust and more effective. And that's exactly what they'll do in Santiago this year.
Daniel Hartz: I certainly hope so. And when you go to these conferences, what exactly is your involvement there?
Jay Manning: Well, I am not one of the international negotiators, so I'm not in that room. Those are folks who work for, you know, the work for the State Department for their respective countries. But there are lots of other folks at cops who are not international negotiators. And the reason I would be there is typically we have a collection of our governors and premier, maybe not all of them. I think they were all in Paris, but I don't think we've got all of them in any of the others.
But several of them come and the PCC in 2016 started working in partnership with the cities of Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and then Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles in California. And some of those mayors will come, too. So my hope is and we're working on this right now, we will have a number of opportunities to talk about the work that the PCC is doing and encourage other regions like us, like the Pacific Coast Collaborative, to step forward and be more aggressive than their national government can be. And there are regions like the PCC in Europe that are organized as a region.
And what we want to show is, first of all, substantively, these are some examples of what we're doing. And you can do this, too. And for example, right now we're engaged in a really impressive and exciting effort to reduce the generation of food waste. And food waste is both the edible and inedible portion of our food that ends up going to a landfill and it produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas far more powerful than CO2. And so if you can reduce the amount of wasted food that you generate and the best thing to do with food is get it to hungry people. And we have plenty of people who are hungry. And so we're trying we've adopted a PCC West Coast regional goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. And we are moving it. We're starting the implementation of the work to achieve that reduction. It'll be a tremendous greenhouse gas reduction if we are successful and we will be.
But that's an example of something that I hope that the governors and the mayors are at the COP and talk about this food waste project. It's just one example of working regionally to have more of an impact than it's an individual state could have by itself.
Daniel Hartz: So it's almost like you're there to be an example in and lead the way and show others and encourage others. It sounds like it's basically a place to discuss and share ideas and encourage each other.
Jay Manning: It really is. The first time I went to a COP, I was totally overwhelmed by the number of people, the diversity of those people. They are literally from every planet on the globe and many of them wear sort of their local garb, clothing. So the diversity of the people themselves and what they're wearing and what language they're speaking is really I have never seen anything like that. I've never, never been to a big international event like that.
And then the energy level of people who are in attendance is, especially in Paris, it was electric. You'd walk in and just feel the energy running through the building. And it was you know, we were in Paris and one of the world's great cities, and they reached agreement. It was so exciting to be part of that. And then, you know, contrast that with the cop the following two years later. Maybe it's just the next year in Marrakesh, in Morocco. And I was there and I was giving a speech the morning that the American election results came out.
And I was going to talk about the work that I did, talk about the work that we are doing on the West Coast on ocean acidification, it is an acidifying of the water in the oceans, and it's from too much CO2 in the atmosphere. So it's the very problem that's causing global warming. A portion of that CO2 dissolves into the oceans and it's turning the world's oceans more acidic. And even a small change in acidity has tremendous potential impact and actual impact on especially shellfish. And so I was there talking about that. But people, you know, they weren't really hearing me. They really wanted to know what does this election mean for the United States and climate and participation in the call and commitment to the Paris agreement. And I didn't know at the time. I knew it wasn't good. I didn't know how bad it was going to be. And so the feeling America was decidedly different than it was in Paris.
And then fast forward a year to Bonn, Germany, last year's cop and I was there too, and people clearly have gotten over the election of the Trump administration and words like, you know, they'll do what they'll do, but we're moving forward. The rest of the globe is moving forward and making progress and leaving us behind. And it's a sad situation.
And I only hope that the American people decide this was a bad experiment and we're moving on in 2020 so we can get back onto the onto the train with the rest of the world and make this transition now again. No, even, it's not just us. Everybody has to do better. The trajectories we're on right now are not satisfactory. We have to be more aggressive, we have to be more effective, and we have to commit to leaving just about all the fossil fuels that are still in the ground. We have to leave it there.
And instead of fracking out a bunch of new oil gas, we have to shift to renewables. And here on the West Coast, we just Oregon, Washington just joined B.C. in California in adopting exactly that policy. And by 2030, I think the use of fossil fuels for health, for generating electricity in on the West Coast, it will be very rare. And in some places, it won't be happening at all.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah,let's hope it is indeed 2030 and hopefully even sooner. If we rewind a little bit in your career, a couple of your big wins as an environmental lawyer were finalizing the Hanford Tri-party agreement to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington.
And this was a notable site because it's where plutonium was created for the first ever nuclear bomb, as well as the bomb detonated over Nagasaki. And another big one for you was also winning the important Clean Water Act, which I believe you are mentioning at the beginning. And that was a case that you were actually in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and that ruled that states could regulate their own hydroelectric projects.
So in terms of these kind of big cases, would you say it's more cost effective? And if we're looking at it from a financial standpoint, because I guess the environment, I think that maybe one of the issues that for some people is that the environment sounds a little fuzzy. There's that whole idea that we were talking about earlier is that there is no financial gain from it.
But would you say it's more cost effective in general for the taxpayer if the government puts policies in place in advance in terms of cleaning up nuclear waste or getting these kind of Clean Water Act cases where you can actually benefit farmers and local populations? You know, I guess my question is, what is the financial benefit of putting those things in place?
Jay Manning: That's a really good question. And, it is just so abundantly clear from the work that I've done over the years and anybody who's done this work, you would say if you can prevent the creation of an environmental problem in the first instance, that is so much cheaper and easier to do than trying to fix it once you've created the problem. And this plays out over and over and over again.
With Hanford, talk is about a fascinating history, if people want to know about Hanford and know about the history there. I highly recommend a book called "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Richard Rhodes. It's won the Pulitzer Prize. It's fantastic. Dan's book hit historical is not a novel. It's recounting of the very earliest thoughts about creating nuclear power and nuclear weapons. And it traces that forward to the test in New Mexico right before we dropped the bombs on Japan. And Andrew plays a central role in that.
At the time, to create a nuclear weapon, you have to have either enriched uranium or plutonium, neither of which exist in nature. The only way those elements are created is by running a nuclear reactor. And in the core of a nuclear reactor, there are particles flying around and with high energy and creating new elements in the case of plutonium. A new element altogether that doesn't exist in nature or enriched uranium, which is an isotope of uranium that doesn't exist in nature. You have to have one of those two. Plutonium is better for a nuclear weapon. So FDR decided in 1942, we're going to build a nuclear weapon.
And they grabbed Enrico Fermi, who is an Italian physicist at the University of Chicago and the only guy in the world that had caused a chain reaction. Actually what happens in the core of a nuclear reactor, you get this continuous chain of physical reactions that produces energy. And he had done that under the bleachers at the football field at University Chicago for 13 seconds. That was the only time that it happened on the planet. And they grabbed him and sent him to Hanford, and said "You need to build a nuclear reactor". And he did in 13 months, and it worked. And that's one of the most amazing technical engineering feats to occur. Maybe, the most ever on our planet. And we didn't have computers. We didn't have calculators. They did it with slide rules. And then Hanford was the place where we created plutonium and enriched uranium for the next.
Forty five years, and it sits on the banks of the Columbia River in central Washington state. And when I was in the AG's office, somebody said, "Yeah, so we're going to enter into these negotiations with the US Department of Energy that owns and operates Hanford to clean the site". And I happened to be there. You know, I was in the office that day and they said, "Hey, you want to work on this?" I said, "Okay! I've never heard of it, but, yeah, I'll work on it." And I spent the next three years of my life negotiating the cleanup agreement between the federal government and the state government with very difficult negotiations, super antagonism between the two levels of government.
The USDA, we and its predecessor, they were used to being able to do exactly what they wanted to do with virtually no oversight. And they didn't like us saying that this is what you're going to do now because we are the regulator and we are going to regulate you if we're going to clean this site up. And we finally got to an agreement. Governor Gregoire was the head of the Department of Ecology at the time, and she was the difference maker. It was because of her that we were able to reach agreement. She's a masterful negotiator and we got this agreement in place in 1989. The U.S. government has been spending about two billion dollars per year at Hanford ever since 2 billion, not million, billion.
It's the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere. There's the contaminants are absolutely unique in that they are highly dangerous, toxic. You get one gram, I mean one molecule of plutonium in your lungs and it'll kill you. And it has a half-life of something like two hundred and fifty thousand years, which means 250 thousand years, it will be half as radioactive as it is now. Still incredibly dangerous, but half as radioactive as it is now. So that's two hundred fifty times our record.
Now it's more than a recorded history, I mean, it's so long and for us to be able to deal with things that are going to be dangerous and toxic for that period of time. It's sort of beyond us. But it was the war and the war mattered more than anything else. And nobody thought much about, yeah, you know, this process produces millions of gallons of contaminated liquids with high, high content of plutonium and uranium and other radioactive radioisotopes and solvents and metals. And it's basically all over that site. And so that's why we're spending two billion dollars a year to clean it up. And we have a long way to go.
And yes, if somebody had said, "You know what? We can't just dump this stuff on the ground. We're going to have to contain it somehow." That would have been expensive. It would've slowed him down, but it would have saved a whole bunch of money in the long run. And that handprint scenario plays itself out at every Superfund site that's out there. It plays itself out in a polluted river. Once you get a river to the point that it is polluted and it's beyond water quality standards, it's so much harder to bring it back than it is to keep it clean in the first instance.
And that problem has just played itself out over and over again for human beings, for us here in Washington, for the United States. And, you know, sustainability precepts would teach you that you don't do that. You don't make the decision that's going to allow the river to become polluted in the first instance you take. You make decisions that will not allow that to happen, because in the long run, it's going to save you money. It's going to save everybody, money, taxpayers, businesses, anybody who is in the vicinity of that river. Certainly anybody who's dependent on that river for, you know, for eating or for a livelihood. So it's a very good point and a big problem for humans that we're just not wired up very well to behave in a sustainable fashion.
We are wired up to worry about the, you know, saber tooth tiger that is lurking outside of our caves. And that's the immediate problem. We're actually pretty good at dealing with immediate problems, especially immediate threats. But the longer term threats, the ones that are not going to get you today but it's going to get you next week. You know, we just know that the farther out it is, the worse we are at it. And it is, it could prove to be our undoing. I mean, it really could.
That's the question to me is will we figure out this sustainability challenge before it destroys us? And I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. When we didn't have the impact that we have now, it seems more likely that we could figure it out. But when you have climate change bearing down on us and you have ocean acidification and ocean warming bearing down on us, it's something that keeps me awake at night thinking about how do we get onto a more sustainable path. And I just honestly, sitting here today, I don't know how this is going to come out.
Daniel Hartz: Would you say you're optimistic about it.
Jay Manning: No.
Daniel Hartz: Fair enough. If you do look at it, it seems like there is some positive movement forward, but I guess when you take a step back and look at it from the bigger picture, there is so much going on that little tiny efforts that are just starting to happen. It's the tiniest drop in an acidic ocean.
Jay Manning: When I say I'm not optimistic, and I'm not optimistic, but I absolutely believe we can do it if we choose to. I just don't know that we will make the right decisions. But if we decided as a species, as a country, as a state, that we are we are going to move to a no, we can't do it overnight. We're going to we're moved to a truly sustainable approach to like living here on this planet. If it's entirely doable, it is. Absolutely. We can do it. We know how to do it right now.
The question is, do we have the leadership, the political will, the demand from the people? I'm not one to sort of put this all on lack of leadership. I think we have had a lack of leadership. But at some point the people have to stand up and say, we demand this. We demand that we make these changes. And if you as a politician, you're not on board with that, then we'll show you the door and we'll find people who are on board with that. And I don't think that's happened. I don't think the citizenry as a whole. I mean, right now with the Trump administration, with its all-out war on the environmental regulatory system, there's never been anything remotely like this that's happened in our history.
And I would think if you had told me that they would be doing the things that they're doing right now, I would have said the people will never stand for that. The voters will, there will be a roar of " this is unacceptable and you have to stop!". And that hasn't happened. And that's why I'm not optimistic. If that roar happens, if people here said, "You know what, we may have elected you for a number of reasons, but dismantling our environmental protection system is not one of them." I feel a whole lot better about our chances.
Daniel Hartz: If people listening to this podcast to do one thing, which is in that case say that really standing up for the environment and basically demanding that politicians make a change, that companies make a change, and I guess you can do that by voting and by voting with your with your dollar, by showing what it is that you want.
Jay Manning: That's that be that would be one big thing. And I it's not that wouldn't be hard. I think that's an easy thing to do. You can, clearly, you can vote for candidates who care about the environment, who are committed. You can work against, and I can just make a phone call, send a letter, send an email to the to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, to the Department of Interior and say what you're doing is not acceptable. I do not support it-- in that, that makes a difference.
You can talk to your own elected senators or House of Representatives members and say the same thing, that this is unacceptable to me and that makes a difference. You can certainly do things in how you live your life. I mean, you mentioned where do you spend your money? Who do you buy from? And I think there are companies like Patagonia, like REI that are absolutely committed and outstanding citizens on the environment that, everybody who cares about the environment, should shop there.
You know, Amazon, they have a way to go. And they're working on it. They're not anti-environment, they're not anti-sustainability, but they're not where they need to be either, in my opinion. I think they're a great example of a company that would be responsive to customer demands for an increased level of sustainability. They're working on it, they are trying to get there!
But having some more feedback from customers saying that that's important to me. That would be an important action that anybody could take. Then there's the obvious things. Don't buy a big guzzling SUV or pickup by a car that gets good mileage and save some money. And I know not everybody can do that. But there's way more SUV and pickups on the road than there are people that have to have them. And there's, insulate your home, eat local. There's a need to, look up sustainability on the Internet, it'll give you more things that you can keep than you can keep in your head, that you could change in your own life that aren't hard, that are easy to do, that will save you money, that will make your life better, and do those things. But we also need to, this current administration is trained-racked up administration has got to be shown the door.
Daniel Hartz: Well, it sounds like we all have a role to play. And hopefully we can all pitch in and do what we what we need to do to make to make those changes happen. Just as we have a couple minutes left, you mentioned one really interesting book about the making of atomic bombs. Do you have any other book recommendations that either inspire you or that are great for learning more about environmental policy or how we can make a change?
Jay Manning: I do, actually. The other one I would recommend is a book called "Project Draw Down." And it is a sort of a primer on here's how we can we can beat climate change. Here are the actions that we can take at a societal level, at a government level, and as an individual level, it's optimistic. It is an optimistic book. If the authors truly believe that this can be done and it will be done, it's fascinating to read to see how things you don't really think about contribute to emissions that cause climate change.
And there are things they recommend that aren't obvious that have quite a significant impact in terms of carbon emissions. It's well-written, it's optimistic, it's beautiful. The photographs are beautiful. So that's the other one I would highly recommend. I think people would come away from it feeling like, "Hey, we can't do this!". And then and then know here are some things I can do that will make a difference.
Daniel Hartz: Brilliant. That's actually the second time that the book has been recommended. And I just started reading it a couple days ago. I'm really looking forward to jumping into the meat of it. Thank you for that recommendation. And lastly, where can people find you and learn more about your work?
Jay Manning: Well, if people want to do that, the way to do it would be to look at the Cascadia Log Group's website. We also have a consulting company that's called Cascadia Policy Solutions, separate Web site. The Pacific Coast Collaborative has its own Web site. And then one of the things project we work on for the PCC involving ocean acidification is the creation of an international organization on that. It is designed to work on the problem of ocean acidification. It is called the "International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification" that has its own website. So those would be some places where you can get some more information if you want to.
Daniel Hartz: Great. Excellent. Well, Jay, thank you so much for your time. This has been really fascinating and it's incredible to hear about all the things you've accomplished over your career. And I hope that we can make you more optimistic as the younger generation. And I hope that over the remainder of your career, you're able to accomplish many more exciting things and continue to lead the way.
Jay Manning: Thank you, Daniel. And what you're doing here with this podcast is really important. And thank you so much for doing it. It is getting the word out and getting people aware of the problem and the opportunities. I just think it's fantastic. And thank you so much for doing that.
Daniel Hartz: Thank you for listening to episode four of SustainabilityMatters.Today.. You can find links to the books and the organizations Jay mentioned in the show notes which you can see on my Website, Sustainabilitymatters dot today. If you enjoyed this episode or any of the other SMT episodes, I'd really appreciate if you could take the time to give a five star review. Please subscribe to the podcast to be the first to know about new episodes. Talk to you soon!