US Senate Passes Funding Boost To Conservation Fund, Help For National Parks – OPB

Jefferson County Wally Bowman Bridge Photo by WA State Land & Water Cons

Thanks to Maria Cantwell and many others who have been fighting for this funding for a long time. As many of you long time readers will know, this has been a battle that has seen funding for local conservation districts threatened. The funds for these are applied locally, in efforts that help local farmers and environmental efforts that are determined by the local population.

 

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would further protect public lands and recreation across the country. The legislation would also help relieve a massive maintenance backlog on federal lands.

Washington conservation groups say this funding will help promote access to nature across the state.

This blog reported on the Republicans defunding of this crucial program back in 2015. It was led by Utah Representative Rob Bishop.  Thankfully for the country, he is retiring from the Congress this fall and running for a Utah state position.

https://olyopen.com/2015/10/05/republicans-kill-the-land-and-water-conservation-fund/

I stated then

The LWCF state assistance program provides matching grants to help states and local communities protect parks and recreation resources. LWCF funding has benefited nearly every county in America, supporting over 41,000 projects. From building hiking and biking trails, to improving community parks, playgrounds and ballfields, this 50:50 matching program is the primary federal investment tool to ensure that families have easy access to public, open spaces.

I also stated that:

Closer to home, here on the Olympic Peninsula, this program has funded, over the last 50 years, the Bogachiel River Boat Launch repair, maintenance at Clallam Bay, Clallam Bay Spit development, Freshwater Bay development, Snow Creek Renovation, Salt Creek County Parks renovation, and the Shane Park Playground in Port Angeles. Remember, Clallam County usually votes Republican, and this is what you are getting folks for your support of that party, which now controls the purse strings at the Federal Level.

In Jefferson County, Fort Worden State Park was funded with over $156, 000, The Hoh River Boat Launch, Kai Tai Park, Fort Worden Breakwater, and the Point Whitney (south in the county on Hood Canal) acquisition all were supported by funding from this program. You can find the entire list of funded projects here: http://www.nps.gov/lwcf/index.htm

What did Congress want to use the funds for? They want to give this money to the oil and gas industry for employee training. You read that right. They want to give the money to private enterprises to offset their employee training, which will make them more profitable by not having to spend that money themselves.

Read the whole story here.

https://www.opb.org/news/article/us-senate-funding-bill-conservation-fund-national-parks/

If you are curious about the details of this little known governmental effort, see this webpage.

https://rco.wa.gov/grant/land-and-water-conservation-fund/

 

Judge voids nearly 1 million acres of oil and gas leases, saying Trump policy undercut public input – Washington Post

Again we see the importance of the courts in staving off the attacks against the environment by the current administration. If you ever thought that your vote doesn’t matter, remember, you are also electing judges that are appointed by the administration of the time. Not voting because your favorite candidate doesn’t get chosen is a foolish move that actually works against the environment and your own self interests.

Here we see a Federal judge in Idaho legally rule on what we all thought all along, that the administrations 30 day feedback window on giving away millions of acres to oil and gas companies was arbitrary and capricious.

Here’s the whole story.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/02/27/judge-voids-nearly-1-million-acres-oil-gas-leases-saying-trump-policy-undercut-public-input/

 

New Jefferson County Shooting Range Ordinances Passed

From the Tarboo Ridge Coalition today

The Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed two new shooting range ordinances at the conclusion of 5 hours of deliberations during their meeting on Monday, February 24. The new ordinances are vastly different than the 2018 versions which the Growth Management Hearings Board invalidated in early 2019.

The BoCC followed their Planning Commission’s recommendations that all new commercial shooting ranges be located indoors in commercial and industrial zones and not be allowed in Jefferson County forests. The commissioners carefully scrutinized the proposed ordinances to clarify language and eliminate previous loopholes that had been exploited by Fort Discovery Corporation in 2018 when the company began building an outdoor paramilitary training center at Tarboo Lake without environmental review or obtaining permits.

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition, which appealed the 2018 ordinances, will meet with the County and the Growth Management Hearings Board in late March to discuss whether the current effort complies with the Washington State’s Growth Management Act.

Lawmakers want to protect water rights in Washington from Wall Street speculation – Investigate West

This issue could be a huge problem. Water rights are already extremely contentious. Now we have to worry about Wall St. bankers and investors owning them. Get behind these bills and let your legislators know you support them!


Worries that moneyed interests could control Washington’s water have sparked a push in Olympia to cut Wall Street bankers and international investors out of the state’s convoluted water rights system. Competing bills introduced during this legislative session take aim at the state’s water banks, which collect untapped water rights and sell water to users in need. Although the proposed legislation has received only tepid support, a consensus is emerging that action is needed to keep speculators from using water banking, as one state senator puts it, to “strangle” Washingtonians. Water banks collect water rights from rural landowners who have permission to take more water than they need. The banks then sell access to water to customers whose water rights are either too new or too small to meet their needs. Levi Pulkkinen reports. (Investigate West)

Lawmakers want to protect water rights in Washington from Wall Street speculation

Lobby Day (again!)

After our snow canceled the Environmental Lobby Day events last month, it’s been rescheduled this week. (ironic, isn’t it?) This is an excellent way to meet your legislators on their ground and let them know what is important environmentally. Mad about the net pens? Oyster farms in our National Wildlife Refuge? Believe me,the folks from Seattle aren’t fighting that.

Or want to support one of the great bills being promoted by the Coalition for Environmental Priorities?

So get out from behind Facebook and Next Door and get a group together to car pool to Olympia and participate! You get to schmooze with the best of them while you watch high paid and  well dressed lobbyists argue that environmental rules are too expensive! What could be funnier than that!

And while you are there, just to show that I’m not a total bummer of a date, where does one eat? My favorite place for lunch or dinner is Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar They have superb clam chowder and lots of other great eats. You can pretend you are one of them being plucked by a walrus and carpenter. But no, I’m serious, this is one of the finest restaurants in the state IMHO. Just go. You are on a field trip.

Also try Wagner’s European Bakery And Cafe for great lunches. More budget oriented. Or pack your own bag of goodies! Actually if you sign up you get a healthy lunch.

What bills are being supported? Take a look at my right hand top tab, where I’ve conveniently cut and pasted the Coalition Priorities. Or go to the URL listed a few paragraphs up above.

So sign up, read up on the bills being promoted, and learn how to effectively lobby your elected officials! It’s fun and is far better than watching an impeachment any day!


Date: Thursday, January 30, 2020 Time: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Location: Temple Beth Hatfiloh, 201 8th Ave. SE, Olympia, WA 98501

Join the Environmental Priorities Coalition and hundreds of activists to push for key environmental legislation in Olympia on January 30th!

During lobby day, you will team up with other activists to speak up for the environment and gain the skills to be a persuasive constituent. You’ll have the opportunity to attend issue briefings, learn how to lobby, hear from environmental champions, attend breakout sessions, and meet face-to-face with your elected officials to advance the Environmental Priorities Coalition’s 2020 priorities.

For the 2020 legislative session, we have adopted four priorities essential for healthy communities and a thriving environment: Clean Fuels Now, Healthy Habitat Healthy Orcas, Climate Pollution Limits, and Reduce Plastic Pollution.

Registration required. Schedule TBA.

Check out the video from 2019 Environmental Lobby Day!

How Trump’s Environmental Policy Rollback Affects The Northwest -OPB

The Trump Administration has now gone after the heart of environmental protection in this country. This new rule change has been pushed by many companies here in the NW in their lobbying efforts. The rule change is totally opposed by the entire environmental community. It’s a horrible change, that we all expected would happen.

The NEPA has been a thorn in the side of many projects, and one of the parts discussed in the article is a new category, that is very unlikely to sustain judicial review. It states that “…projects with “minimal federal funding or involvement” wouldn’t require any kind of environmental assessment.”  This might mean that massive aquaculture farms put in the heart of environmentally sensitive areas  might be excluded from environmental review, for example.  The NEPA was an issue in the landmark court case against the Army Corps of Engineers & Taylor Shellfish last year. The cumulative affect of geoduck aquaculture, which the Corps own biologist had found to have terrible long term effects, (which they never published, it was a draft that was killed and only found by court discovery process), was at the heart of the judge’s decision.

In that decision, the court found in it’s blistering conclusions, “…that the Corps has failed to adequately consider the impacts of commercial shellfish aquaculture activities authorized by NWP 48, that its conclusory findings of minimal individual and cumulative impacts are not supported by substantial evidence in the record, and that its EA does not satisfy the requirements of NEPA and the governing regulations…the Court holds unlawful and sets aside NWP 48 insofar as it authorizes activities in Washington.” (emphasis mine)

It was reported on the web site run by the leading anti-aquaculture group, Protect our Shoreline News in 2015 that Taylor had hired The Glover Park Group (GPG) specifically to target the NEPA process. The web site stated that, “The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group reports the purpose GPG has been enlisted by Plauche and Carr, fronting for Taylor Shellfish and the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, is to deal with “Federal permitting related to shellfish operations.” http://protectourshorelinenews.blogspot.com/2015/03/taylor-shellfish-has-new-friend.html

There’s never been a better time to donate to any of the groups that will fight this in court, such as Earth Justice, which has pledged to fight this. 

I’d love to hear from the aquaculture industry as to whether this was part of their lobbying efforts last year in Washington D.C. How much money did they give to the Trump Administration to promulgate a rule change like this? Following the money might be quite interesting in understanding just how much the shellfish industry tried to push this through. Looking forward to seeing some motivated young journalist dig this information up.

A new Trump administration plan to scale back a bedrock environmental law could affect all kinds of projects in the Northwest, including timber sales, hydroelectric dams, and large energy developments like the controversial Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project with its 235-mile Pacific Connector pipeline.

https://www.opb.org/news/article/trump-environmental-policy-rollback-northwest/

Congress increases funding for Puget Sound Geographic Program to $33 million

More good news. Thanks to all who worked to push this forward, including Olympic Peninsula House of Representatives Derek Kilmer.This continues to show how expensive it is to recover the vast resources that we have mismanaged for more than a century. This money is all about ‘green’ jobs, as important as our military budget and other supposedly ‘sacrosanct’ parts of the budget that never seem to be questioned at all. We will need billions more as climate change kicks in, in ever larger ways. Luckily, our state and federal representatives seem to get it and are fighting for the money we need.

Attached are two announcements regarding funding for Puget Sound protection and recovery efforts, including:

  • Congress increases funding for Puget Sound Geographic Program to $33 million; and
  • FFY2019 Strategic Initiative Advisory Team (SIAT) Funding Recommendations and LIO-selected NTAs for National Estuary Program (NEP) Geographic Funds.

OLYMPIA— The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed a funding bill that will provide $33 million in FY2020 for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Puget Sound Geographic Program, which is an increase of $5 million over FY2019 funding levels. The President is signing the bill into law on Friday.

The Puget Sound Geographic Program funds implementation of the Puget Sound Action Agenda, the long- term plan for Puget Sound recovery developed by the Puget Sound Partnership.

“We know what we need to do to recover Puget Sound, our salmon, and our endangered orcas,” said Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “This very welcome funding increase will help accelerate action on the ground to protect and restore this very special place.”

“We are excited to learn of the increase in federal funding for Puget Sound restoration,” said Bill Dewey, director of public affairs for Taylor Shellfish Farms and one of the business representatives on the Puget Sound Partnership’s Ecosystem Coordination Board. “The support from Congress has been instrumental in achieving water quality upgrades in shellfish growing areas all around the Sound.”

The Puget Sound Geographic Program provides funding to state, local, and tribal governments to implement projects to improve water quality, enhance fish passage, increase salmon habitat, and protect shorelines. Several Washington State agencies manage programs to address the three Strategic Initiatives for Puget Sound preservation and recovery: storm-water, habitat, and shellfish.

“It is incredibly rewarding to have the federal government support the amazing work our region is doing to restore Puget Sound,” said Heather Bartlett, water quality program manager at the Washington State Department of Ecology, which leads the Stormwater Strategic Initiative. “Our state has dedicated millions of dollars to restore this critical ecosystem and protect our iconic orca, salmon, and natural resource economy. With this additional federal funding, we will continue to make progress towards a healthy and resilient Puget Sound.”

“The Puget Sound Geographic Program has played an integral role filling a critical funding niche in our regional recovery effort,” said Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Through the program’s Habitat Strategic Initiative, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with Department of Natural Resources, have slowly bridged gaps across institutional silos to achieve on-the-ground change. There is still much to be done, and this funding comes at a critical juncture for the ecosystem that supports our region’s imperiled salmon populations and Southern Resident Killer Whales. The program’s broad support really reinforces its significance to the health of our region, and this investment will continue to move the needle towards a healthier Puget Sound.”

“Many of Washington’s communities were built on our trademark salmon runs. Unfortunately, we’re seeing salmon runs decline, which is hurting our culture, our economy, and our iconic orcas,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the director of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. “I’m heartened to see increased federal investments in Puget Sound, and thankful that our state has such strong congressional leadership fighting on its behalf.”
Additional recovery initiatives receive funding

The Battle Over Fish Farming In The Open Ocean Heats Up, As EPA Permit Looms – OPB

The Feds look to open up aquaculture into the open ocean. While this project is in the Gulf of Mexico, the threat to us here is very real. After watching the incredibly incompetent way that our legislators allowed the industry in this state to function with virtually no over-site because they fashioned the laws back in the 70s/80s to split enforcement  between two different government agencies (Department of Ecology and DNR) ending in the disastrous blow out of the Cypress Island pens. This finally led to regulation and a shutting down of the industry in this state, and we will never know the true cost of what allowing these pens into our waters meant to our endangered salmon. Old timers I interviewed talked of how wild runs collapsed in the Agate Pass area after the pens went in to the south side of Bainbridge Island. They suspected the wild fish were somehow compromised by the pens. While many other issues were simultaneously showing-up, rampant development, over-fishing in the Strait, etc. the old timers thought the timing highly suspicious. Now this. Whatever could go wrong?

States control up to three miles offshore from their coastlines, but between three and 200 miles falls under federal control. Attempts to introduce aquaculture in federal waters have so far been stymied by concerns about aquaculture’s impact on ocean ecosystems and wild fisheries.

https://www.opb.org/news/article/npr-the-battle-over-fish-farming-in-the-open-ocean-heats-up-as-epa-permit-looms/

Proposed EPA Rules Could Limit State And Tribal Power To Block Infrastructure Projects -OPB

Over the last few years, since Trump came to power, I have been hearing about companies, some here in the NW engaged in shellfish farming, that have been quietly spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying the Federal government to strip away the capability of local jurisdictions, such as county, state and tribal governments, to create local rules that could stymie the businesses operations or licensing by the federal government, under the Clean Water Act. A goal of theirs has been to take away the ability of local environmentally concerned organizations to sue, other than at the federal level.  Now, it appears the Trump administration is acting on their lobbying efforts. Think about fish farming, pulp mills, or any other activity covered under the Clean Water Act.

The rules specifically would restrict these non-federal governments’ authority to review the water quality impacts of projects that require a federal permit or license. These projects range from pipelines to hydropower facilities to dredging — any development that result in “discharge” into U.S. waters.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 21, 2019. ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OW–2019–0405, at https://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lauren Kasparek, Oceans, Wetlands, and Communities Division, Office of Water (4504–T), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460; telephone number: (202) 564–3351; email address: cwa401@epa.gov.

Read the whole legal document (very long, very difficult to follow if not a environmental lawyer) at

Click to access cwa401certification_2060-af86_nprm_20190807_prepublication_version.pdf

https://www.opb.org/news/article/federal-water-quality-rules-energy-infrastructure/

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

 

 

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

Puget Sound Partnership on the Governor’s proposed 2019-2021 biennial budget

 

Statement from Director Sheida Sahandy on the Governor’s proposed 2019-2021 biennial budget
Governor Inslee’s budget proposal revealed today demonstrates his strong commitment to recovering Southern Resident orcas, salmon, and the Puget Sound ecosystem.  The ecological condition of Puget Sound came into sharp focus last summer as Talequah, one of our few remaining Southern Resident orcas, carried her dead calf on her head through a mourning journey that lasted 17 days. 

 

Ecosystem decline is the result of thousands of decisions that have, directly or indirectly, negatively impacted our shared resources.  Getting to recovery and resiliency will similarly take thousands of decisions that take us in the right direction of achieving and maintaining a thriving Puget Sound.  Ongoing recovery work over the years has helped to mitigate the decline, with some very positive results, but much greater investment is needed to definitively alter course.

 

The investments proposed by the Governor will go far in helping us turn the corner on sustaining the Puget Sound ecosystem and the creatures we share it with. These investments align with two significant, collaborative, science-based bodies of work: the recommendations of the Southern Resident Task Force and the Puget Sound Action Agenda.

 

Investments in Puget Sound recovery are critical to the survival of orcas and salmon. They also boost our region’s economic vitality and agricultural sustainability, enable maintenance of our abilities to fish and recreate, and help us to ensure the quality of life that draws and keeps people to this region.  These investments also support our shared obligations to the reserved treaty rights of the tribes in Puget Sound.

 

We hope the legislature supports and funds these critical investments.   

Farm Bill cleans up attacks on environment

The NRDC has put out a press release stating their support of the current Farm Bill, now that the anti-environmental elements of it have been removed. Passage seems likely.

“The final farm bill is an enormous improvement over the partisan train wreck passed by the House. Many poison pills are gone that would have axed protections covering endangered species, pesticides, clean water and food for hungry individuals. While the final bill still contains some problematic provisions, we are thankful that our champions defeated many of the worst proposals.” Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council

https://www.nrdc.org/media/2018/181211-1

 

Trump administration rolls back protections on wetlands. Legal battle will ensue

The battle over the Clean Water Act has shifted into high gear. The EPA  has decided to rollback Obama era protections to wetlands. The definition of wetlands and their importance to underground aquifers has been established by science. That science has allowed the expansion of how pollution migrates to “navigable waterways” as defined by the CWA. That the ex-head of the EPA Scott Pruitt as well as the current (ex coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler has chosen on numerous occasions to ignore their scientists recommendations, to choose development and industry over protections means that the battle will shift to the states, where progressive states like ours, who have implemented strong Critical Areas Ordinances and Shoreline Master Plans, are capable of holding off the outcomes of this ruling. Likely a Supreme Court battle will ensue over the next few years.

NPRs version of the story here:

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/11/675477583/trump-epa-proposes-big-changes-to-federal-water-protections

NY Times article here:

Washington Post coverage:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/20/trump-to-roll-back-obamas-climate-water-rules-through-executive-action/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3787695342fe

National Resource Defense Council view

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/trumps-attack-clean-water-what-you-need-know

A right wing analysis of the rollback can be found here:

https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/421091-epa-restores-common-sense-to-overaggressive-water-regulations

 

 

 

 

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