EDMONDS — The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes $369 billion for energy and climate-related programs, much of which will be funneled through states. Casey Katims, a 34-year-old with Edmonds roots, sees his job as helping them spend it wisely.
Katims is executive director of the U.S. Climate Alliance, an organization of 24 governors who have pledged to collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. The alliance staff of 16 will help with such things as analysis and modeling, purchasing processes and model legislation, he said. Americans will ultimately see changes in transportation, manufacturing, buildings, agriculture and the production of electricity.
“My focus is making sure our governors have the tools they need to deliver on the promise of that legislation,” he said. “We have our work cut out for us.”
Katims will discuss the alliance during a 6 p.m. Thursday online presentation to the Sno-Isle Group of the Sierra Club. The public is invited to attend. A registration link is online at sierraclub.org/washington/sno-isle-group.
A graduate of Edmonds-Woodway High School, Katims studied political science at Vassar College. His career bent perhaps inevitably toward climate issues with his first post-college job as scheduler in the Washington D.C. office of then-Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. Climate is a hallmark issue for Inslee. Katims left Capitol Hill in February 2012 to work on Inslee’s gubernatorial campaign.
After Inslee was elected governor, Katims returned to D.C. to help Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, who had won her seat in a special election. Because she didn’t have the benefit of an official orientation, DelBene recalled, Katim’s experience was especially helpful in setting up her office. His focus was on health care and education.
“Casey is an incredibly thoughtful, detailed person,” she said. “He wanted to know everything about everything.”
In October 2017, Katims’ boss was Inslee once again. He worked in the governor’s D.C. office, serving three years as director of federal and interstate affairs. In January 2021, after Joe Biden was elected president and Democrats regained power, he joined the Environmental Protection Agency as deputy associate administrator for intergovernmental relations. His tenure was just slightly longer than his job title. Last April, he accepted his current job leading the U.S. Climate Alliance.
Inslee wasn’t surprised by Katims’ quick climb of the career ladder.
“Casey’s potential was obvious from the moment I met him,” Inslee said. “I was always impressed by his refined sense of judgment, even at a young age. He puts his whole focus into whatever he does because he believes so strongly in the value of public service.”
For Katims, the Climate Alliance position is just one step away from working for his former boss. Inslee launched the organization along with governors Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the international 2015 Paris Agreement. Member governors support the agreement’s core principle to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The alliance is bipartisan, though only three of its 24 member governors — from Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont — are Republican. But governors need not be members to benefit from the organization’s climate change “road map,” Katims said.
“I think every governor can and should be a climate champion,” he said.
The Paris Agreement was adopted at the 21st Conference of the Parties, known as COP21, the annual United Nations gathering to address climate change. Katims plans to attend COP 27, slated for November in Egypt.
While Katims and his husband Chris Russell live in the other Washington, he maintains his Puget Sound connections. His parents, Nancy and Michael, live in Edmonds where, Katims joked, his mom flunked retirement. A former school district administrator, she is now president of the school board. His brother Jeff lives in Bothell.
Katims sees signs of climate change all around his home region, from heat waves to wildfire smoke. Ocean acidification threatens the shellfish industry — which is tough for Katims to see because “I’m an oyster person.”
Is it depressing to have a job focused on a daunting issue like climate change? Katims answers no.
“I don’t think I’d be successful in my job if I weren’t an eternal optimist,” he said. “On my best days, I try to channel Gov. Inslee’s energy. We have to get up every day and put our best foot forward because we don’t have another option.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as one of three governors to launch the U.S. Climate Alliance. Nancy Katims was a school administrator before being elected to the Edmonds School Board.