“Working for Clean Water” Hearing Brings Together Broad Coalition

“Working for Clean Water” Hearing Brings Together Broad Coalition
Governor, local government, labor, fishermen, and environmental groups all in support

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Today, the House Capital Budget Committee had a hearing on the Working for Clean Water bill aka the Clean Water Act of 2010. The bill received an extra boost of support when Governor Gregoire came out in support of the bill. Supporters from local government, labor, commercial fishing, and environmental groups also came out in force to speak in favor of the bill.

Working for Clean Water 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 address the state’s biggest water pollution problem: stormwater.

“The Puget Sound environment is in crisis, in large part due to stormwater pollution. We need to clean it up faster than anyone is planning if we are to save her, and we need the polluters who are responsible to pay for their part,” said John MacDonald, a Puget Sound commercial fisherman. “A healthy environment makes money, while a polluted and sick environment costs us money.”

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.

The Hazardous Substance tax was approved by Washington voters in 1987 (I-97) to clean up toxic pollution and has not been raised since. 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 $225 million per year.

Initially funding would be split between the general fund, stormwater funding for local governments, clean water projects, and Washington Department of Transportation stormwater costs, with the most significant portion of the near-term revenue going to the general fund. Funding would transition back to clean water projects over time and would be entirely directed to those projects by 2016.

“This bill strikes the right balance for these tough times – by immediately directing millions of dollars towards stormwater infrastructure projects and at the same time helping support essential state services,” said Kathy Fletcher, executive director, People For Puget Sound.

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 is prime-sponsored by Rep. Timm Ormsby (Spokane) and Sen. Ed Murray (Seattle). Supporters of this proposal include the Environmental Priorities Coalition, Association of Washington Cities, Washington State Association of Counties, Washington State Labor Council, and Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council.

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