Legislation to help endangered orcas keeps moving toward approval – Watching Our Waterways

Chris Dunagan on the handful of environmental bills moving through the Olympia sausage making machine.

Members of the governor’s orca task force this week expressed hope and a bit of surprise as they discussed their recommendations to help the orcas —recommendations that were shaped into legislation and now have a fairly good chance of passage. Over the years, some of their ideas have been proposed and discussed — and ultimately killed — by lawmakers, but now the plight of the critically endangered southern resident killer whales has increased the urgency of these environmental measures — including bills dealing with habitat, oil-spill prevention and the orcas themselves. Chris Dunagan reports. (Watching Our Water Ways)

Legislation to help endangered orcas keeps moving toward approval

Voting in Olympia

Current voting status from our Legislators. Culled from the great folks at Washingtonvotes.org. The Democrats are capitalizing on their majority and governor. They are passing a lot of bills to help the environment. While I am not wild about taxing carbon, (I’d rather see better support for purchasing electric vehicles and power recharging stations), as carbon taxes really don’t change behavior from what I’ve seen, simply make people pay more. Setting quotas on how many electric vehicles are imported for sale here simply penalizes the car dealers if they don’t sell. That’s just dumb. They are already paying taxes on gross sales, which is also a bad tax system. I’d much rather created incentives for people to buy! That will drive demand. It’s all about demand and alternative choices (i.e. mass transit).

I took a bus for many years from North Seattle to Redmond. I did it because there were frequent busses and it was convenient. I knew I could leave early and return early or late. I don’t see anything being done to create more incentive for people to take mass transit on the Olympic Peninsula. As an example, it would seem we need more busses serving PT to Sequim, where people may work, or go to medical appointments. There are only four busses,the first leaves at 8:30 AM. No working person will take that bus. They have to drive to near the airport to catch the earlier bus. Coming back the last bus leaves Sequim at 6:40, so if you have to stay late, you are stuck. The first bus leaves Sequim for PT at 6:52, so you can certainly catch that bus if you work in PT, but again, your last opportunity out is at 5:50. It appears we could easily do one more bus on each end of the day. One leaves early to Sequim from Haynes and one leaves later from Sequim and returns later from PT. That is what creating demand can accomplish. However you also need to advertise the service.

There are people though that will never take the bus, and for them, we need to drive demand for longer range electric vehicles. Maybe a service that would allow people to ‘rent’ an electric car at the Haynes P&R and drive it to Sequim, etc. and return it when done to Haynes. That seems to be a technology that is available. It certainly has worked in Seattle. ReachNow, ZipCar, Car2Go.

So here’s your local legislator’s votes


House Bill 1110, Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation fuels

Passed the House on March 12 by a vote of 53-43

This bill would direct the state Department of Ecology to impose low-carbon fuel limits on gasoline and other transportation related fuels with a “clean fuels” program. Under the bill, carbon emissions of transportation fuels would have to be reduced to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. The mandatory program would begin Jan. 1, 2021. During floor debate, opponents argued that the bill would harm Washington residents by raising gas prices, which are already among the highest in the nation, and raising other costs, including food prices. A Republican amendment to allow a public vote at the next general election was defeated, and the bill passed along party lines by a 53-43 vote. Bi-partisan opposition to the bill included all Republicans and three Democrats. The bill was referred to the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee for further consideration

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

This bill would impose California’s automobile emission rules on vehicle owners in Washington. Under the bill, car makers would be assigned credits based on the kind of fuel efficient cars they bring into the state. Those credits would then be used to set quotas for how many zero-emission vehicles manufacturers must ship into the state and for dealers to offer for sale, regardless of whether consumers want them or not. The stated goal of the bill is to have about 2.5 percent of all cars brought into Washington be the equivalent of zero-emission vehicles. The bill is now before the House Environment and Energy Committee for further consideration.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (Sequim) (D) ‘Voted Yes’
If enacted into law, this bill would ban stores from giving single-use plastic carryout bags to their customers. The ban includes paper and recycled plastic bags unless they meet stringent recycled content requirements. Under the bill, retailers would also be required to collect an 8-cent per bag tax for each recycled content large paper or plastic carryout bag provided. These provisions would supersede local bag ordinances, except for ordinances establishing a 10-cent per bag charge in effect as of January 1, 2019. Passage of SB 5323 by the Senate is the furthest statewide bag-ban proposals have advanced in the legislative process, since the idea of regulating and taxing shopping bags were first proposed in 2013. The bill was sent to the House Environment and Energy Committee for further consideration.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (Sequim) (D) ‘Voted Yes’
Under this bill, Washington’s electric utilities would have to eliminate all coal-fired energy sources by 2025 and meet 100 percent of its retail electric load using non-emitting and renewable resources by January 1, 2045. ?In support of the bill, Democrats said the state has an entrepreneurial economy that can move toward a clean energy economy. Solar and wind are the future, and this bill provides a common sense framework for bold actions toward a carbon-free electricity, they said. Republican senators offered nearly two dozen amendments to the bill, pointing out that Washington utilities already rely heavily on clean hydroelectric power and that the bill’s provisions would really only result in additional costs and rate increases to be borne by consumers. Most of the amendments failed, and the bill passed along strictly partisan lines, with one Republican and one Democrat member excused. The bill was sent to the House Committee on Environment and Energy, which has scheduled a public hearing for March 5th.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (Sequim) (D) ‘Voted Yes’

Court Ruling Clears Hurdle Toward Lasting Protections For Puget Sound Shorelines

Legal challenge targeting Corps’ failure to regulate shoreline armoring will go forward

In  full disclosure, the author of this blog is on the board of directors of Sound Action, one of the plaintiffs in this case. This case, if successful,  is likely to have significant ramifications to the placement of bulkheads, when allowed, along the shoreline.

Today the federal court soundly found in the plaintiffs favor and denied the Motion to Dismiss. Most significantly, the court found that a final agency action had taken place — which clears the way for the challenge to move forward.

February 5, 2019
Seattle, WA —A federal judge today rejected an effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its refusal to adequately protect shoreline areas in Puget Sound. The Court’s decision means the lawsuit, which charges that the agency has refused to assert its Clean Water Act jurisdiction over most shoreline armoring in Puget Sound, will go forward.

Sound Action, Washington Environmental Council, and Friends of the San Juans filed the suit in May of 2018. The groups contend a strong federal policy to protect shorelines is critical to Puget Sound recovery and the survival of endangered orcas.

The coalition, represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, is calling for federal oversight of shoreline armoring by raising what the Corps’ Seattle District considers the “high tide line” to better protect at-risk species and shorelines. The lawsuit also calls for a response to the groups’ 2015 petition asking for jurisdictional decisions on four shoreline armoring projects.

“The Army Corps should spend less time filing pointless motions in Court and more time getting on board with the rest of the region in protecting critical shoreline habitat,” said Anna Sewell of Earthjustice, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “The Corps should stop fighting this lawsuit and start implementing the law so that Puget Sound’s salmon and Southern Resident orcas have a shot at survival.”

Read the Court’s decision.

Read the complaint.

https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2019/court-ruling-clears-hurdle-toward-lasting-protections-for-puget-sound-shorelines

Background

Armoring is the placement of hard structures — boulders, jetties, seawalls — on shorelines to help prevent erosion. The Corps is required by law to review proposed armoring projects up to the “high tide line,” which is generally the line at which land meets the water. But the Corps’ Seattle District uses a much lower tidal marker (known as the “mean higher high water” mark). As a result, the Seattle District does not review the majority of armoring projects in Puget Sound.

The Corps’ failure to assert jurisdiction means there has been no federal oversight of whether most armoring projects in the Sound meet the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act or any other federal requirement.

Further, the Corps recently rejected an interagency recommendation to use a higher tidal marker, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits arbitrary and capricious agency actions. In rejecting the recommendation, the Corps ignored sound science and the law.

This troubling lack of federal support puts Puget Sound shorelines at risk of further deterioration, particularly when shoreline armoring is well documented to be one of the most significant risks to the Sound. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs challenge the Corps’ failures to adequately protect Puget Sound shoreline habitat by fully implementing the law.

The orca recovery plans that could become state law – KCPQ

Three bills hit the floor for supporting Orca recovery. More on this soon.

After a year of task force meetings, it’s time to find out if the governor’s ambitious plans to save the endangered southern resident orcas will turn into state law. It’s in the hands of state lawmakers now as they introduced several bills in Olympia Wednesday. The legislation is based on several of the governor’s orca task force recommendations. Some will be a harder sell than others. [Read about House Bill 1580 and Senate Bill 5577 which deal with aspects of vessel noise; House Bill 1578 and Senate Bill 5578 which deal with improving oil transport safety; House Bill 1579 and Senate Bill 5580 which increase habitat for Chinook and forage fish.]  Simone Del Rosario reports. (KCPQ)

The orca recovery plans that could become state law

Washington court: Fish and Wildlife can regulate land to protect fish – Capital Press

An extremely important ruling has come down at the Washington State Supreme Court on Thursday. The  unanimous ruling affirmed the right of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to regulate construction on dry land above the normal tide lines in order to protect fish. This enormously expands the scope of the Hydraulic Permit Code and will likely have great consequences for Governor Inslee’s hand in making policy decisions for protecting additional salmon habitat for Orca recovery. I’m sure that the plaintiffs might wish they had never brought this before the Supreme Court. But there’s also caution for environmental organizations that may celebrate the ruling.

From the case itself. It offers a good basic understanding of what these Hydraulic Permit Applications are and when they are required.

This case asks us to determine the geographic scope of permitting authority delegated to the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  (Department) over hydraulic projects. A “hydraulic project” is defined as “the  construction or performance of work that will use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of any of the salt or fresh waters of the state.” RC_W 77.55.011(11).
Entities seeking to undertake hydraulic projects must apply for and obtain permits from the  Department before commencing work. RCW 77.55.021. In this case, a coalition of  Washington State counties (Counties) challenge the Department’s statutory authority to regulate the construction or performance of work that will occur exclusively above the ordinary high-water line.
The Hydraulic Code requires anyone planning to undertake a hydraulic project to obtain a preconstruction approval permit from the Department to ensure “the adequacy of the means proposed for the protection of fish life.” RCW 77.55.021(1).
The Department can deny or condition a permit only for the purpose of protecting fish life. RCW 77.55.021(7)(a). The Department’s regulatory authority encompasses hydraulic projects, which are defined based on their effects on waters of the state rather than their location relative to those waters. See RCW 77.55.011(11).
An HPA [hydraulic project approval] is required for all construction or repair/replacement of any structure that crosses a stream, river, or other water body regardless of the location of the proposed work relative to the [ ordinary high-water level] of state waters.
An HPA is also required for bridge painting and other maintenance where there is potential for paint, sandblasting material, sediments, or bridge parts to fall into the water.
ISSUE
Did the legislature intend to limit the Department’s permitting and regulatory authority to cover only projects that take place at least partially at or below the ordinary high-water line?
CONCLUSION
We hold that under the plain language of RCW 77.55.021, the Department’s jurisdictional grant of permitting authority includes upland projects that meet the effects test set forth in RCW 77.55.011(11). We further hold that the effects test requires reasonable certainty, not absolute certainty. Finally, we defer to the expertise of the Department to determine which upland activities meet the effects test. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s order.
The findings are that WDFW has authority to require HPAs for upland projects that fit the scope of the legal codes. That the requirements can be done by reasonable certainty and not a strict legal finding of certainty,  which gives much greater leeway for WDFW to issue requirements for an HPA. Lastly, the Supreme Court defers to the expertise of the Department  to determine which activities meet the requirements.
This last finding may be a double edge sword. What if the Department is wrong in a finding, siding with a developer who has huge resources and proposes enormous or highly unusual trade offs for the idea of “no net loss”?  What if they don’t decide to force an HPA (or agree with a developer intent on massive environmental change) and an environmental organization challenges that? The ruling here seems to give much greater leeway to excesses of the Department in both directions. That may not be as positive a win for environmental organizations as it appears. It requires close oversight to make sure that the law is narrowly applied to appropriate projects, while also ensuring that bureaucrats are not simply rubber stamping inappropriate and possibly habitat destructive projects.
Here’s a link to the ruling:

Read the Capital Press story here:

https://www.capitalpress.com/ag_sectors/water/washington-court-fish-and-wildlife-can-regulate-land-to-protect/article_ea1e014c-f97a-11e8-859d-7f550b7b3843.html

 

 

 

Debate Over Water Quality Standards Takes A New Turn – Puget Sound Institute

Christopher Dunagan writes on the issue of the Federal EPA vs. State of Washington EPA, vs. the people of Washington, as the real battle of Trumps reigning in of environmental regulations changes the rules of engagement. The issue is very relevant to all of us in the Salish Sea basin, as it pits a national standard of water quality, established by the EPA under Obama’s era, against an update by the Trump administration. How much cancer causing chemicals can we eat before we get cancer?

The State of Washington EPA fought the original stricter standards, because it would mean more effort by industrial corporations (i.e. Boeing et al) to meet the newer standards, which were put in place partly due to the fact that many of us are eating far more fish than what was originally believed. Now those same corporations are petitioning Trump’s EPA to ease the standards.

It’s not just an academic debate. Cancer causing chemicals effect us and our resident Orcas and more. Read the whole short story on it here. Www.pugetsoundinstitute.org

https://www.pugetsoundinstitute.org/2018/11/debate-over-water-quality-standards-takes-a-new-turn/

Many people thought the issue of regulating toxic chemical discharges into Puget Sound was settled when the federal government forced Washington state to use stricter criteria, but the debate may be underway once again.

Zangle Cove Lawsuit Issues Bombshell Findings Against Aquaculture

The case moving through the courts at the present time to challenge the lack of Hydraulic Code Permits for the destruction of shorelines by aquaculture got a surprise boost yesterday.

Findings that contradict the testimony of the Army Corp of Engineers and Taylor Shellfish show that in 2017 the Army Corps had to create a Cumulative Impact Analysis that showed conclusively that there would be significant impacts from adoption of a Nation Wide Aquaculture Permit. The 117 page draft concluded that their would be significant impacts if adopted. The Corps has categorically denied such impacts.

The Corps admits that the aquaculture is likely to “adversely affect designated critical habitat for several species listed under the ESA including Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Hood Canal summer chum salmon and Puget Sound Steelhead…Given the magnitude of the the impacts in acreage the importance of eelgrass to the marine ecosystem and the scale of the aquaculture impacts relative to other stressors, the impacts are considered significant.”

The letter goes on: The proposed action is inconsistent with State requirements under the SMA to protect forage fish spawning habitat.”

The debate has been that the Army Corps of Engineers nor the State have ever considered the cumulative impact of aquaculture permitting on the overall shoreline and ecosystem of Puget Sound, focusing only on individual parcels. Now we know that they did consider the impact, and found it lacking.

The next steps on this lawsuit should be very interesting, judges don’t usually go against findings of fact such as this, and the Governor’s Orca Recovery Task force is currently about to publish it’s findings for saving habitat for the Orca and it’s food sources.

The full text of the findings are here:

http://users.neo.registeredsite.com/3/7/5/12218573/assets/2017_NWP48_Draft_Cumulative_Imapct_Analysis.pdf

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