Governor Inslee Signs Slew of Orca Protection Bills – Seattle Times and others

This week saw the signing of a variety of bills that came out of the Orca Task Force, put together by Governor Inslee to identify issues that could theoretically help save the resident Orca pod from extinction. While these bills are not the radical (yet realistic) idea of breaching the Snake River dams as many (including this blog) would like to see, they do address a group of problems that are facing recovery and protection of the Salish Sea.

Senate Bill 5135 was written to allow Department of Ecology to ban certain PCBs and PFAs which cause cancer and are found in high amounts in Orca bodies. They may be hampering the ability for them to have healthy  offspring and also may impact their health. Toxic-Free Future was a champion of this bill. Congratulations to them and their supporters. This has been a long hard fight for many years.

Senate Bill 5577 pushes boats farther away from whales, mandating 300 yard exclusion zones. This is not as far as many in the Orca task force wanted, but is at least better than it is currently. There is huge pressure from whale scientists to push back even further, but the whale watch industry is too powerful for Inslee to override.

The bills digest is as follows:

Finds a person guilty of a natural resource infraction if the person causes a vessel or other object to: (1) Approach within four hundred yards of a southern resident orca whale; or(2) Exceed a speed greater than seven knots over ground at any point located within one-half nautical mile of the whales.

Prohibits commercial whale watching operators from approaching or intercepting within six hundred fifty yards in the direction of the whales.

Requires a commercial whale watching license for businesses engaged in commercial whale watching activities.Requires the department of fish and wildlife to implement a limited-entry whale watching license program for the inland waters of the state for all whale species.

What you don’t see is an implementation of even greater enforcement in this bill. It is understood though that Fish and Wildlife may be getting a bigger budget do that.

House Bill 1578 – This bill strengthens our oil-spill prevention portfolio. As some may remember, this author and many dozens of other environmentalists helped push through the rescue tug at Neah Bay in the last decade, with the help of then Representative Van de Wege. This time, Representative Tharinger was part of the sponsors of the new bill. It’s digest reads:

Creates new requirements designed to reduce the current, acute risk from existing infrastructure and activities of an oil spill that could: (1) Eradicate our southern resident killer whales;(2) Violate the treaty fishing rights of federally recognized Indian tribes;(3) Damage commercial fishing prospects;(4) Undercut many aspects of the economy that depend on the Salish Sea; and(5) Harm the health and well-being of residents.

Declares an intent to spur international discussions among federal, state, provincial, and industry leaders in the United States and Canada to develop an agreement for the shared funding of an emergency rescue tug available to vessels in distress in the narrow Straits of the San Juan Islands and other boundary waters.

Currently tankers bigger than 125k dead weight tons are forbidden inside the Strait, past Dungeness Lighthouse. Tankers from 40 to125K tons dead weight are allowed to operate with tug escort. Currently a huge threat is to tugs towing bunker and other fuels. Some have sunk, such as the barge that spilled out on the coast near Neah Bay some years back.

The new law forces these tankers and tug towing barges to have escort tugs starting in 2020. If the tug or tanker is empty,  they do not need an escort tug.

The bill also strengthens the existing work being done on oil spill preparedness and establishes a new oil spill emergency response system with coordination between the State, U.S. Federal, Tribal and Canadian agencies. While there has been coordination before, this system is new.

There is a new reporting regime for oil processing facilities receiving crude oil shipments by rail, which will require them to report to the state these shipments and their routes. This may end up getting taken into court by the oil industry, as it’s unclear to this author whether the State has authority to require this under current Federal law.

Bill 1579 – While part of this bill allows greater catch limits on predator fish:

The commission shall adopt rules to liberalize bag limits for bass, walleye, and channel catfish in all anadromous waters of the14state in order to reduce the predation risk to salmon smolts.

The real teeth in this bill is the work done by Sound Action and other environmental and tribal lobbyists, along with the Department of Natural Resources to implement much stronger rules and penalties for implementing bulk heads along the nearshore of the Sound.  (full disclosure: this author is Board President of Sound Action as of this writing).

The conversion of shoreline to bulkheads  has been going on with little scientific understanding of the scope of damage to the spawning habitat of forage fish. Forage fish are food for salmon and other larger fish. Sound Action has existed specifically to challenge improper or incomplete Hydraulic Permit Applications (HPAs) from DNR that affect this habitat.

UPDATE BASED ON GOVERNOR’S VETO OF ONE SECTION: While The bill was also helped through by a section on a series of three ‘demonstration’ projects inserted by Senator Van de Wege on behalf of farmers coping with flood plain issues in Watcom, Snohomish and Gray’s Harbor County. Governor Inslee decided that these projects did not come out of the Orca Task force recommendations and were not in alignment with the needs of protecting fish habitat, but rather protecting farm land and exploiting river gravel. His veto of that section was in alignment with the opposition  by environmentalists and Tribes because of the stated intention of the backers of the language to ‘extract gravel’ from these rivers. What is needed in the future to address these problems should involve something similar to  a version of the highly successful Dungeness River Management Team, which brought together all the stakeholders on that river for the last 20 years to identify and then come up with appropriate solutions rather than leap to conclusions not based on science.

Anyone wanting to understand the work that the Dungeness River Management Team has done can view the short video I did for them a few years ago, on their 20th Anniversary.

 

The language that the proponents of Senator Van de Wege’s bill wanted, was to simply move to solution, based on assumptions and not science. They need, as the governor pointed out in his veto to at least have to go through the process to create a team of stakeholders, not just from the farm community, but from individuals and state scientists to come up with appropriate solutions.

So all in all, congratulations to the organizations that spent hundreds of hours in the Orca Task Force, and thanks to Governor Inslee for getting this done and helping drive these key bills into law! We still have a long way to go to save the resident pod, and there is no guarantee any of these bills will actually turn the tide to restore them to health.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/gov-inslee-signs-range-of-bills-aimed-at-helping-endangered-orcas/

Tougher rules aim to save salmon habitat for the good of Puget Sound orcas – KUOW

This bill might make it “harder” to build a seawall, but the real question is, “Why do you need a seawall in the first place?” The use of seawalls and other hard shore armoring has been a default position for anyone worried about their property, whether it is needed or not, nor whether it works or not for their problem. Meanwhile, salmon and forage fish habitat (the fish salmon eat) are vanishing before our eyes. With millions more people expected to move to the area in the next decade, this may be one of our only opportunities to push back on rampant seawall useage. It certainly will not end the practice.

It might soon be more difficult to build a seawall on Puget Sound.The state legislature is considering a bill that aims to help southern resident killer whales by protecting shoreline salmon habitat.

Single-family homeowners who want to build a seawall could face a longer permit process under the bill. The Department of Fish and Wildlife would thoroughly review every proposed seawall for its potential effect on salmon habitat.

The bill would also give the agency the authority to issue stop-work orders as well as civil penalties of up to $10,000 to property owners who don’t comply with the law.

 

https://kuow.org/stories/seawalls-and-orcas-tougher-rules-aim-to-save-salmon-habitat-along-puget-sound

Environmentalists see key window of opportunity to help Orcas survive – KUOW

I have no idea whether these bills will  actually be enough to save the Orca, but they are progress. They represent thousands of hours of people’s work (many volunteering their time) to come up with solutions from their specific subject expertise.  They offer some hope but ultimately, the food is needed now. Time will tell whether 1579 will lead to behavior change in WDFW, but they are the ones that signed up for it.

Four bills making their way through the legislature seek to lessen the biggest threats facing the killer whales: water pollution and noise from boat traffic, dwindling salmon runs, and the risk of oil spills in the Salish Sea.
HB 1579, “Implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force related to increasing Chinook abundance,” which is expected to cost $1.1 million in 2019-2021.
HB 1578, “Reducing threats to southern resident killer whales by improving the safety of oil transportation,” which is expected to cost $1.4 million in 2019-2021 and over $2 million every two years after that.
SB 5135, “Preventing toxic pollution that affects public health or the environment,” which is expected to cost $1 million in 2019-2021.
SB 5577, “Concerning the protection of southern resident Orca whales from vessels,” which is expected to cost close to $1.6 million in 2019-2021. Anna Boiko-Weyrauch reports. (KUOW)

Environmentalists see key window of opportunity to help Orcas survive

Washington getting closer to mandate for 100% clean energy – KNKX

Given the post above on the worsening condition of the atmosphere, this gets more important by the day. Won’t fix anything today but is a stake in the ground to say we are going to head towards a cleaner future.

The bill was not acted on today, but scheduled for the House Finance Committee next week. E2SSB 5116 Find the whole story on the bill here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5116&Year=2019&initiative=

One of the biggest priorities among environmental groups working in Olympia this year is passage of a law to transition the electrical grid to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. It’s also a cornerstone of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest policies to address climate change. The proposal faces a key vote in the state House finance committee on Friday morning. Washington’s 100 percent clean energy bill was on a fast track when it was first introduced in January…. The main feature of it is a timeline that would phase out all coal from the state’s grid by 2025. It would set interim targets for 2030, and increase investments in renewable sources and energy efficiency to get to carbon-free electricity by 2045. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX)

Washington getting closer to mandate for 100% clean energy

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’

Massive public-lands bill passes Congress with big implications for Washington state – Seattle Times

Some very good news for a change.

The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed a wide-ranging public lands bill with big implications for Washington state, including measures that would greenlight federal involvement in a multibillion-dollar Yakima water project, reauthorize a key conservation fund and prevent new mining in the Methow Valley.

Read the whole story here.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/massive-public-lands-bill-passes-congress-with-big-implications-for-washington-state/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

 

 

%d bloggers like this: