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Bullitt Foundation, a heavy hitter in the Northwest's environmental movement, will wind down its giving

Hal Bernton and Evan Bush, The Seattle Times on

Published in News & Features

Some Bullitt Foundation money has gone to groups testing new ideas in housing, energy and agriculture. In the early years there was more of a focus on conserving lands, including grants to groups campaigning for preservation of what became the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument.

Many of the grants have helped to fuel efforts by groups that organize protests, file lawsuits or lobby for legislation.

"I would say 90 percent-plus of our grants have been designed to influence policy," Hayes said. "As a nonprofit, we cannot make a grant to hire a lobbyist or influence legislation ... but all the policy development is fair game to us."

Increasingly, the Bullitt Foundation and Hayes have wrestled with how to shift the region away from fossil fuels that drive climate change as they are burned or leaked into the atmosphere drive climate change.

Taking a cue from scientists who say strong action must be taken within the next decade to head off the worst effects of a warming planet, the foundation has ramped up spending.

On that climate-change front, Bullitt Foundation funding has included grants to Seattle-based Climate Solutions, the Washington Environmental Council and the Northwest Energy Coalition, which successfully pushed for 2019 legislation in Olympia to reduce carbon emissions. The foundation also has made grants to Columbia Riverkeepers, which has repeatedly challenged permitting of fossil fuel development projects.


There are failures to go along with the success.

Hayes backed Initiative 1631, the 2018 ballot measure that would have put a fee on state carbon emissions, and the Bullitt Foundation funded, over the years, some of the proponents. In an opinion piece published in Crosscut (which receives Bullitt Foundation money) days before the election, Hayes tried to rally support as he attacked BP oil -- a major contributor to the opposition campaign -- as "the face of environmental villainy."

The Washington initiative was resoundingly defeated, and at the national level the Trump administration is rolling back Obama-era policies to reduce emissions.

"Bottom line, in 2021, if the U.S. and major carbon emitters don't dramatically change direction, we'll have made the decision to permanently impoverish the planet," Hayes said in a recent interview.


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