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The Marrakesh Climate Express

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The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal covers investigative work done by CEI's Chris Horner.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order in 2016 on telecommuting, noting that letting public employees work remotely can “reduce transportation-related greenhouse-gas emissions.” And those emissions do add up, especially if you commute from Morocco to Washington—as the Governor’s senior climate policy adviser, Chris Davis, has done since August.

“ Heather and I have hoped to expose our two boys to life overseas and an opportunity to act on that long-held goal recently materialized when she was offered a teaching position [in] Marrakesh, Morocco,” Mr. Davis told his colleagues in an email last summer obtained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Chris Horner. Lucky for him, “as our climate work has grown increasingly international in scope, the Governor asked me to continue to help build those networks from abroad.”

When Mr. Davis traveled from Marrakesh to New York to Washington for work this fall, he incurred more than $3,700 in taxpayer-funded expenses. He emitted more than 4,500 pounds of carbon on the journey, according to a United Nations flight emissions calculator. The Governor’s office also approved $2,082 in expenses for Mr. Davis’s expedition from Morocco to Germany in November.

Mr. Inslee’s office must have anticipated that the climate adviser’s travels could raise constituents’ eyebrows. Mr. Davis’s official job description got a rewrite, and it’s peppered with adjectives like “international” and “global.” Before he embarked, he huddled with his boss, Keith Phillips, and Jaime Smith, the Governor’s executive director of communications, to develop talking points “if asked to explain Morroco [sic],” as Mr. Davis put it in another email.

Mr. Inslee’s office repeated these points in response to our queries about Mr. Davis this week. “Most importantly, this is about the governor choosing senior staff in whom he has confidence and trust,” spokeswoman Tara Lee wrote. She added that “the nature of his work is travel intensive and global,” and, “notably, a large part of Chris’ portfolio has always included international collaboration.”

Call it a version of we’ll always have Paris. The Trump Administration withdrew from the Paris global climate pact, but Mr. Inslee and other resistance governors still want to enforce it themselves.

This Marrakesh climate express is all the more noteworthy given that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is under fire for a trip to Morocco in December to promote U.S. liquified natural gas. Critics claim Mr. Pruitt has no role on trade policy, but LNG exports carry legitimate environmental implications. Natural gas is the least carbon-intensive traditional energy source, and Morocco relies heavily on coal for electricity, so American LNG could cut its emissions.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, nonetheless asked the EPA’s inspector general to “review the purpose of Administrator Pruitt’s travels to determine whether his activities during each trip are in line with EPA’s mission ‘to protect human health and the environment.’” Perhaps Washington residents should ask who is paying for Chris Davis’s intercontinental carbon emissions.

Appeared in the January 6, 2018, print edition.

Originally published to The Wall Street Journal.