OLYMPIA -- Six Washingtonians, backed by the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation think tank, filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to overturn Gov. Chris Gregoire's May 2009 executive order on climate change.
The complaint, filed in Thurston County Superior Court, claims Gregoire exceeded her constitutional authority in signing the order, which implements policies in a bill that didn't make it out of the Legislature in 2009.
Bob Williams, the foundation's president, said during a Tri-Cities visit Wednesday that he's seeing a blurring of the separation of powers nationwide and thought it was time to take a stand.
"We haven't seen many governors go around a bill that failed in the Legislature," said Williams, who once served as a state representative.
He said the point of the lawsuit was not to challenge climate change policy or science -- an issue on which the foundation has taken no position -- but to contest what he views as overreaching by the governor.
"It's a question of playing by the rules, really," said Steven R. Maggi, the foundation's spokesman, who also was in the Tri-Cities. "The topic is irrelevant. We get our standing by representing the taxpayers. There are a lot of things in here that will affect people."
Among the plaintiffs is Jim Wolfe of Pasco, whom the Herald was told was out of the country Wednesday.
Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren said the governor's staff is reviewing the details of the lawsuit, but that Gregoire stands behind her actions.
"The governor has the authority to direct state agencies to take certain actions," Shagren said. "The executive order does not extend beyond state agencies and does not extend beyond the governor's power."
The order in question -- Executive Order 09-05 -- ordered state agencies to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase transportation and fuel-conservation options. Among the directives listed on the governor's website are:
-- Develop emission reduction strategies and industry emissions benchmarks to make sure 2020 reduction targets are met.
-- Ensure Washington has trees to capture carbon, while creating financial incentives for the forestry industry.
-- Work on low-carbon fuel standards or alternative requirements to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.
-- Join with neighboring states and the private sector to implement a West Coast highway accessible to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.
-- Address rising sea levels and the risks to water supplies.
-- Increase transit options, such as buses, light rail and ride-share programs, and give Washington residents more choices for reducing the effect of transportation emissions.
-- Continue to work with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a regional emissions reduction program design.
-- Work with the Obama administration to help design a national program that is strong and reflects state priorities.
An internal memo from Gregoire Chief of Staff Jay Manning attached to the complaint shows the order contains many provisions in a bill that died in the Legislature, plus new ones.
The foundation is arguing the order amounted to Gregoire legislating from the governor's mansion, and hopes a judge will stop the directives from being acted on while the litigation is pending.
Maggi said it took more than a year to bring the matter to litigation because the foundation explored other avenues first, including asking Attorney General Rob McKenna for an opinion on the constitutionality of the order.
-- Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org