On the road: A focus on Clean Energy and rising fentanyl response in Walla Walla County

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Gov. Jay Inslee recently traveled to Walla Walla County, addressing two crucial issues: transitioning to clean energy and tackling the ongoing fentanyl crisis. During his visit, he met with various stakeholders, gaining valuable insights while highlighting state and local collaborative efforts. 

Driving clean transportation with WOW CarShare

A group of people during a roundtable discussion
Gov. Inslee in a roundtable with WOW Tri-Cities and Valley Transit Authority leaders

The governor's day began with a roundtable discussion alongside Women of Wisdom Tri-Cities (WOW) and Valley Transit Authority. The focus was on their innovative WOW CarShare program, which expands electric vehicle (EV) accessibility for low- and moderate-income communities. This program, funded by the Zero-emissions Access Program (ZAP) grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation, prioritizes equity by ensuring affordable access to shared EVs through membership options and strategically placed charging stations in underserved areas.

People gathered around a vehicle featuring the initials "WOW" on its door.
Pictured L-R: MondoFi founder Leigh Angman, Valley Transit GM Angie Peters, WOW Project Director Eric Fitzgerald, WOW’s Micah Fitzgerald, Gov. Jay Inslee, WOW Executive Director Chaune Fitzgerald, Valley Transit Board Chair Heather Scherman, College Place Administrator Michael Rizzitello, College Place Mayor Norma Hernandez, Walla Walla Deputy City Manager Bob Francis 

Supporting programs like WOW's CarShare aligns with Washington's commitment to clean transportation. Funded partly from the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), the Department of Commerce has allocated over $85 million to fund nearly 5,000 new EV charging stations across the state, including 19 in Walla Walla County. Additionally, the CCA ensures that at least 35% of its funds are directed towards areas disproportionately impacted by pollution, further supporting projects like WOW CarShare.

Combating the fentanyl crisis

A group of police officers, fire fighters and first responders standing together, smiling, and posing for a photo.
Pictured L-R: Community Paramedic Cody Maine, Firefighter Medic Hayden Linklater, EMT Armondo Aldrado, ER Nurse Racquel Pleasant, Fire Chief John Knowles, First Spouse Trudi Inslee, Gov. Jay Inslee, Captain Eric Knudson, Deputy Chief Fred Hector, LT Bo Pingree, EMT Jamie Schwartz, EMT Brogan Berkenbile, Walla Walla Deputy City Manager Bob Francis


Inslee then visited the Walla Walla Fire Department (WWFD) to understand their experiences with the alarming rise in fentanyl overdoses and to honor Fire Engineer Ryan Pleasants, who passed away while on duty in January. The governor began with a moment of silence led by Pleasant's wife, Racquel Pleasants, to remember Pleasant's service to the community. Following the moment of silence, Inslee learned about the rise in fentanyl overdoses. Fentanyl has become a daily reality for WWFD crews. They now respond to more overdoses in a single month than they once did in an entire year. The recent seizures in November and December 2023 intercepted approximately 2,800 fentanyl pills and two pounds of fentanyl powder by the Walla Walla Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, underscores the severity of the issue.

Recognizing this critical challenge, Governor Inslee proposed adding over $50 million in new funding for opioid combat in the 2023–25 biennium. This would build upon the existing $200 million allocated for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment facilities, rental subsidies for people with SUD, treatment subsidies, criminal diversion programs, peer support services, Tribal SUD grants, and more.

Investing in Rural Development

Four men standing in front of the Port of Walla Walla sign.
Pictured L-R: Port of Walla Walla Economic Development Director Paul Gerola, Executive Director Patrick Reay, Gov. Jay Inslee, Commissioner Kip Kelly

Inslee's final stop was at the Port of Walla Walla, where he received an update on the progress at Wallula Gap Business Park. This park, one of six rural industrial sites receiving part of a $2.5 million grant in 2023, is poised to become a hub for clean energy development. Proposed projects include sustainable aviation fuel production and EV battery manufacturing, aligning with the governor's proposed $136 million Green Jobs and Infrastructure Catalytic Fund.

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