Another Local Manifestation of Climate Denial

Republicans trashing potentially life-saving research in the name of short term cost savings

In their Project 2025, national Republicans have shed any pretense of acknowledging human-caused global heating (aka “climate change”). Project 2025 is the Republican game plan for the first hundred days of a Republican presidency. It proposes to dismantle the climate strategies of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and green light drilling and digging fossil fuels. Project 2025 is full-on denial, an ambitious plan for a race to the bottom.

Some local Republican are slightly more subtle, showing their colors in more clever ways, often with short-sighted arguments that center on the idea of cost savings. Such is the argument presented by Sue Lani Madsen in her Thursday, September 7th column, “Focusing the agenda on recovery instead of politics” in the Spokesman. Madsen seeks aid for county residents burned out of their homes by the recent Gray and Oregon Road wildfires in the form of freedom from regulation in their quest to rebuild. She casts the State Building Code Council as the boogeyman from whom relief must be sought. 

It isn’t exactly the State Building Code Council as an institution to which Ms. Madsen objects, but rather to the “progressive majority” on the Building Code Council, people purposefully selected and appointed by Governor Inslee to enact“his extreme climate-focused agenda”. 

What’s her beef with the State Building Code Council? It’s new regulations enacted by the Council (with a lot of research and public input) that “include eliminating natural gas in favor of electric heat pumps, requiring preparation for EV charging, and tighter air leakage requirements”. She tosses out numbers for the additional home replacement costs that start at $24,000. Then, tellingly, to emphasize the imposition, she goes on, “Added costs may be over $55,000 in wildland-urban interface areas.” Wait a minute. Why does a re-build location at the “woodland-urban interface” more than double the originally quoted added cost to rebuild? The mandate for heat pumps, EV charging preparation, and air leakage requirements is already in that $24,000. Ms. Madsen conveniently avoids discussing the State Building Code regulations that would help fireproof a re-built home against the next wildfire—logical regulations she cannot tar by including them under the “extreme climate-focused agenda”. 

Ms. Madsen’s white knight in all this is Spokane County Commissioner Al French. Commissioner French, a developer by trade, also sits on the State Building Code Council—where he opposed the new regulations. His underlying reasons for opposition most likely stem from some combination of climate science denial, Republican orthodoxy against “regulation”, and concern that these regulations might cut into profits in the building trade. In her opinion piece Ms. Madsen wishes to re-cast Commissioner French as the staunch defender of the poor and beleaguered against an onerous, misguided regime of climate-science-motivated regulation. 

Like most economic arguments, Ms. Madsen’s is easy to turn on its head. The added cost associated with fireproofing a home at the “woodland-urban interface” might well be amortized through reduced home insurance costs. Certainly fireproofing add-ons in such locations should add to the re-sale value of the home, reduce the likelihood of another loss, and, importantly, reduce the cost to taxpayers of defending such a home in the next wildfire. Heat pump heating and tighter air leakage requirements are more expensive up front but will save money in the long run thanks to greater heating and cooling efficiency—while, at the same time, reducing the need to burn fossil fuels—but for Ms. Madsen and Mr. French reducing the burning of carbon is a bug, not a feature.

If Ms. Madsen and Mr. French’s true concern is to offer economic aid to those faced with rebuilding costs, they might consider supporting, as one quick example, the provision of low cost loans to families faced with rebuilding, loans that would align the time frame of the added costs with time frame of the amortization of those costs—rather than condemning the beleaguered to re-building sub-standard, vulnerable housing by assailing sensible regulation. 

As it stands, Sue Lani Madsen’s Thursday, September 7th column, “Focusing the agenda on recovery instead of politics” is, ironically, all about focusing on the politics of her denial of climate science, not on community recovery. Remember the disingenuous Republican media campaign “They’re coming for your gas stove!”?Madsen’s opinion piece is cut from the same climate-reality-denying cloth.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. As owners and tenants of housing we rarely give more than a passing thought to fire safety or home heating and cooling efficiency—at least until disaster is upon us or our energy bills get out of control. We passively relegate those safety and energy savings concerns to the experts who serve in agencies like the State Building Code Council. Here’s just one example that stands out for me in the meticulous research being done and rarely seen, research that is then expressed in the sort of sensible regulations that Ms. Madsen and Mr. French oppose:

Click on “Ember Entry: Vents”. Watch the video then click on and skim the article “Vulnerability of Vents to Wind-Blown Embers”. Why wouldn’t you want to have the insights gained in research like this incorporated into your re-built home?