New bill introduced : “Working for Clean Water” Priority for Environmental Groups

“Working for Clean Water” Bill Solves Water Pollution Problem While Creating Jobs
Bill is shared priority for environmental groups, labor, and local governments

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Today, Rep. Timm Ormsby (Spokane) and Sen. Ed Murray (Seattle) will introduce today an updated version of the Working for Clean Water bill aka the Clean Water Act of 2010. This new legislation provides a balanced solution in tough times for Washington’s families, local communities, and environment. This legislation will create thousands of jobs across the state.

This bill proposes an increase to the voter-approved Hazardous Substance tax to create jobs, provide temporary support to the state’s basic services through the general fund, and immediately addresses the state’s biggest water pollution problem: stormwater.

The Hazardous Substance tax was approved by Washington voters in 1987 (I-97) to clean up toxic pollution. It is levied on petroleum, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals: substances that are the most significant stormwater pollutants. Increasing the tax from 0.7 to 2 percent raises approximately an additional $225 million per year. The bulk of the dollars are allocated to the general fund in the near term and transition back to fund clean water projects over time.

Toxic pollution from stormwater runoff is Washington State’s biggest water quality problem. According to the Department of Ecology, over 14 million pounds of toxic pollutants wash into Puget Sound each year.

“Without stemming the flow of polluted stormwater, it will be near impossible for legislators to meet the state’s goal of restoring Puget Sound to health by 2020,” said Joan Crooks, Executive Director of Washington Environmental Council.

This bill will also spur thousands of construction jobs statewide to clean up pollution in stormwater. These infrastructure projects are shovel-ready in places like Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Bellingham, and Vancouver.

“This bill puts people back to work, helps our economy recover, and will leave a lasting legacy of a clean Puget Sound and Spokane River,” said Dave Johnson of the Washington State Building Trades Council.

The Federal Clean Water Act requires local governments to control stormwater pollution. Without a funding source, cities and counties depend on property taxes and utility rates to fund stormwater projects. Local governments spent a quarter of a billion dollars each year trying to control and clean up contaminated stormwater runoff.

Supporters of this proposal include the Environmental Priorities Coalition, Washington Association of Cities, Washington State Association of Counties, Washington State Labor Council, and Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council.

This bill is an updated version of HB 1614 and remains a 2010 Priority of the Environmental Priorities Coalition.

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