Northwest farmers urge Trump administration to sidestep salmon protection rules – AP

Ah yes, some of the folks in Eastern Washington and Idaho, people who’s livelihood was created by the tax payer funded dam projects that irrigated the dry eastern side of our state are back wanting the Feds to kill off the remaining runs of salmon for their short term benefits. These people, who have continued to complain for decades about the intrusion of the very government that created the dams and their farms, now wants it’s help again. This time to overrule the laws that protect our remaining runs of salmon. One of the big supporters of these folks has been Rush Limbaugh, among other radical right wing folks. You can bet your bottom dollar that if this committee ever comes to fruition, there will be not a single environmental representative on it.

A group that represents farmers is calling the costs of saving imperiled salmon in the largest river system in the Pacific Northwest unsustainable and is turning to the Trump administration to sidestep endangered species laws. The Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association wants the government to convene a Cabinet-level committee with the power to allow exemptions to the Endangered Species Act. Known as the “God squad” because its decisions can lead to extinctions of threatened wildlife, it has only gathered three times — the last 25 years ago during a controversy over spotted owl habitat in the Northwest. Keith Ridler reports. (Associated Press)

Washington Lawmakers Leave Enviros Feeling Shorted – KUOW/Earthfix

Remember this when politicians come asking for more donations. Delivering environmental support is part of why they are elected.

Washington’s legislative session, the longest in state history, did not deliver the money environmentalists wanted for toxic cleanup, oil transportation safety, or natural resources. Going into the session, the Environmental Priorities Coalition — made up of more than twenty Washington environmental groups — had placed a priority on getting the state to spend more on environmental protection.  Eilís O’Neill and Courtney Flatt report. (KUOW/EarthFix)

President’s fiscal 2018 budget would slash EPA spending by 30% – CNN and NY Times

Trumps dead on arrival budget and the disaster that it wants to create.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request would slash EPA spending by almost a third, according to a copy of the President’s proposal obtained by CNN.

The budget blueprint, which the White House plans to submit to Congress next week, would cut the EPA’s total budget by more than 30% and its operational budget by 35% compared to current funding levels.
Some of the biggest cuts would go to categorical grants for science and technology and environmental program and management spending, which would face 40% and 35% decreases, respectively. Some of the hardest-hit programs would include clean air efforts in the environmental program and management category, which would be cut nearly in half.
The budget would also zero out money for states for dealing with such problems as non-point source pollution, radon, lead, underground storage tanks, pollution prevention and beach protection.

How much money could Trump take from science in WA? – KUOW

And this is only some of it.  The Trump recession that is coming as he dismantles science funding will affect us a lot here in the Puget Sound area. Behind the dollars are high paying white and blue collar jobs at these places.

A quick glance around Lake Union and you can tell there’s a lot of science happening in our state. With the Trump administration threatening cuts to research funding, we examined how much money this could mean for Washington state.

First of all, it’s difficult to lasso all the federal dollars going to science. So we zeroed in on two big agencies to get an overview: the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, looking at their reports for the 2016 fiscal year.

‘Job-killing regulations’ mantra and reality – Seattle Times

Regulations don’t kill jobs as much as shift them around. That doesn’t mean rules can’t cause pain locally. But an ill-advised rollback of regulations likely wouldn’t create many jobs, though it would increase dangers to health and the planet. Jon Talton writes. (Seattle Times)

Thoughts on the new Puget Sound Task Force – Salish Sea Communications

This was originally posted on Mike Sato’s “Salish Sea Communications“. It is a reply to Mike’s commentary on the newly formed Puget Sound Federal Task Force. It clarifies many things that probably could have been stated in a Press Release. With so many stakeholders out there, it seemed very confusing to many of us, and when people working for the Partnership did not know a thing about it in advance, I would have to stick with my perception  that it came out of the blue. However,  we appreciate Jacques White’s commentary.

The recent announcement from the White House did not come out of the blue. Congressman Denny Heck introduced the Puget SOS Act in September of 2015 and has been working advance the legislation since.

By this summer, it appeared that the Act, like many other pieces of federal legislation wasn’t going to get through Congress to the President by the end of his term. Congressman Heck along with Congressman Kilmer began working with federal agencies and the Puget Sound Partnership to look for other ways to move action on recovery of the Sound, and to foster greater federal investment and attention to the region. The funding announced is welcome, but the formation of a federal Taskforce in DC is perhaps more important, as it puts Puget Sound at an administrative level of attention closer to Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and the Florida Everglades. 

Of the $600M in new money, $450M is to support projects that came out of the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project , a joint effort of the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife that started a major effort to evaluate nearshore problems and project ideas in 2001. The final Engineer’s Report released this year identifies over $1 billion in nearshore related projects, and the three projects targeted for the first phase estimated to cost $450M. The $20M for the Skokomish River and the $23M for the Mud Mountain Dam are similarly well vetted USACOE projects that address specific habitat or barrier problems and were ripe for inclusion in a funding package.

The $124M in federal funding is for the implementation of the Puget Sound Action Agenda and represents a 5 year commitment for EPA to match an equal investment from the state of Washington. It should be noted that all of the investments will require Congressional or state legislative appropriations, but the commitments from the executive branch, EPA and the Department of Defense to move forward on these positive steps to recover Puget Sound are significant.

This is all important work, but does not encompass even all the nearshore habitat needs, let alone the water quality issues we face which by some estimates amount to a staggering $500 billion dollar price tag if we were to capture and treat all stormwater in the Puget Sound Basin.

But as I mentioned previously, perhaps the most significant portion of the recent announcement is the formation of the federal Taskforce. From the announcement:

“The Task Force announced today is designed to effectively approach the multi-faceted threats these ecosystems face through development of a “Puget Sound Action Plan” to better coordinate federal programs and focus restoration efforts. The Task Force will develop this action plan in collaboration with the State of Washington and in consultation with tribal governments, as well as through input from a diverse group of stakeholders.

In particular, the Task Force will build on identified priorities in three categories: stormwater management, shellfish sustainability, and habitat protection and expansion.”

It should be noted that the “Puget Sound Action Plan” is for the federal agencies, and we can hope that it parallels the Puget Sound Action Agenda developed by Puget Sound Partnership, and that it focuses greater federal investment of our national time and treasure to recover Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.

The announced investments are relevant, valuable and timely. I would not get too worked up about whether you were deeply involved in the timing or content of the recent announcement, which was driven by strategies relevant inside the Washington, DC beltway. I would put your energy into supporting the planned expenditures in Congress and in the state legislature, and I would focus on getting your voices heard as the federal Taskforce works with regional interests to develop their action plan.

No on I-732

I have taken a bit of heat lately, over my decision to vote NO on I-732. I have been following the debate on this initiative for over a year, and feel I have a pretty good grasp on the issue. My analysis: It’s the wrong initiative at the right time. 

First, off. When I read a quote in the New York Times, by the person who is behind the initiative that says (the writer is talking about the initiative writer) :

This brings me back to my friend, Yoram Bauman, who sent me that headline. He is an environmental economist and stand-up comedian (yes, an unusual combo). He is also one of the leaders of the effort in Washington State to pass a carbon tax. He has been working tirelessly to build support.

Based on his experiences, he has a message for environmental activists: “I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party. Yes, there are challenges on the right — skepticism about climate science and about tax reform — but those are surmountable with time and effort. The same cannot be said of the challenges on the left: an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government, and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons in order to pursue that desire.

That, my friends, is absurd on it’s face. Those of in the environmental movement (left right and center) have been stymied again and again by the Congress, controlled by the very same Republican Party that Yoram claims wants to solve the issue. They not only have offered no alternatives, but they deny it’s even a problem. You may remember that the last time they crafted an energy bill, under Dick Cheney, the did not even invite one environmental representative to the meetings. At that meeting, they put together legislation that allowed fracking to be done with no environmental oversight. They allowed fracking fluid to be dumped, and it is still dumped, in our rivers and oceans every day with no environmental oversight. Since then, over the last 8 years, they have stymied any attempt to put in place climate change law. They are boasting that they will overturn the Paris Climate agreement if Trump should win and they take over Congress and the Presidency. Luckily, that seems a long shot at this moment.

Mr. Bauman seems very naive about how the political sausage gets made. In this year of Donald (I will end the EPA) Trump, Dr. Jill (I’m not so sure about vaccines) Stein, and Gary (no need to worry about global warming as the sun will burn us up in a billion years) Johnson, is it surprising to find bad ideas made into an initiative by someone saying something like this? Is there something we are missing in his motives? According to his resume, he is a PhD in Economics. Frankly, I’m burned out on economists trying to force their voodoo on us. Think I’m alone in this thought? None other than the venerable David Suzuki supports this line of thinking. A quick thought on economists by David.

The initiative will give huge tax breaks to Boeing, will reduce the tax on all manufacturing businesses, while stripping tax revenues, if their predictions prove wrong, from the State just as the state needs it to fund basic education, something it has not been doing properly, well forever, according to the Supreme Court of Washington. The Seattle Times said, “state officials, who have forecast that instead of being revenue neutral as intended, I-732 would bring at least a short-term cut to the general fund of $797.2 million over six fiscal years.” We cannot afford a roll of the dice like that now. Education funding is at stake. In Jefferson County I’m finding  some of the same people wanting to McCleary fully funded supporting this initiative. Help me understand how this won’t affect the McCleary funding fiasco?

Reducing the B&O tax on manufacturing gives a huge tax break to Boeing. And what about the rest of the small businesses who pay B&O? They likely will find themselves right in the cross hairs of more tax increases because who else is going to be taxed to raise the money to meet the McCleary Decision?

It seems like a dream initiative. They say that no one gets hurt. I just don’t believe that for a minute.

Will the initiative actually help those affected by the rising prices of fossil fuel? The analysis by Siteline, which was generally in favor of I-732 glided over the following statement, “Still, it does have a hole in it: some 340,000 low-income families do not qualify for the Working Families Tax Credit. Some of them, perhaps many of them, will end up worse off by tens of dollars each year because the sales tax cut won’t fully offset their increased carbon costs. Some of them might come out as much as a few hundred dollars a year behind. The Working Families Tax Credits and sales tax cuts are important improvements on the status quo, but we lament I-732’s lack of additional funds to help low-income Washingtonians.” Really. So we should pass despite this failing? This is really the crux of the argument. It is a win for Boeing and a loss for perhaps 340,000 lower to middle income families who will have to pay the increased costs with no rebate from the State? If you were a single mom eking out a living watching all your cost of living go up while your pay is stagnant, would feel like a valid tradeoff? If you were having to choose between medication for your kids or paying higher costs at the pump to get to work would you think this is a fair choice? As I understand it, over 800 families are using the food bank in Jefferson County each week. Are those folks going to get the tax credit or just pay higher prices at the pump and/or on their electrical and heating bills?

Additionally, the initiative will do nothing to build new non polluting infrastructure to replace the bad carbon polluters.

The alternative is an initiative that was not put on the ballot (for fear that having two competing initiatives would kill both) that was widely supported by the environmental community, unions and minority communities, and would use the raised revenues to put in place new green infrastructure and create jobs.

To go along with the many environmental organizations opposing I-732, which include the Sierra Club, (see their letter of non support here  ) is the fact that State Senator Kevin Ranker, the most environmentally progressive senator in the state, has come out against the bill, should tell you something. He agrees that it doesn’t really change anything, and likely will stymie real progress for years.

So if it does not end up being revenue neutral, where will we come up with the money to fill that hole in the budget? Follow the money. Likely  no where, so look for additional cuts to environmental work, which is where a lot of McCleary’s funding is already being found.

The environmentally progressive network FUSE came out against the initiative with a very well laid out argument. Read it here.

Can we do something about getting an initiative backed by a much larger coalition? You bet.  By this time next year we can have a much better initiative on the ballot. Who’s backing the Alliance for Clean Energy and Jobs, who are ready to go with it?  How about Greenpeace as a starter? The Sierra Club? Unions galore? Many Tribes?  Here’s their steering committee. And check out the vastly longer list of their supporters at their web site.

The Alliance Steering Committee

  • De’Sean Quinn | African American Community
  • Matt deGooyer | American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific
  • Tony Lee | Asian Pacific Islander Coalition
  • Vlad Gutman | Climate Solutions
  • Aiko Schaefer | Front & Centered
  • Rosalinda Guillen | Community to Community
  • Cheri Cornell | CoolMom
  • LeeAnne Beres | Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light
  • Mark Liffmann | Environmental Entrepreneurs
  • Jill Mangaliman | Got Green
  • Peter Bloch-Garcia | Latino Community Fund
  • Nancy Hirsh | Northwest Energy Coalition
  • Rich Stolz | OneAmerica
  • Robby Stern | Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action
  • Rebecca Saldana | Puget Sound Sage
  • Kelly Hall | Renewable Northwest
  • Adam Glickman | SEIU 775
  • Bill Arthur | Sierra Club
  • Ricardo Gotla | Transportation Choices Coalition
  • Josh Meidav | Tulalip Tribe
  • Jason Barbose | Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Sarah Cherin |UFCW 21
  • Brenna Davis | Washington Businesses for Climate Action
  • Mauricio Ayon | Washington Community Action Network
  • Shannon Murphy | Washington Conservation Voters
  • Becky Kelley | Washington Environmental Council
  • Sarah Clifthorne | Washington Federation of State Employees
  • Ken Lans | Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Jeff Johnson | Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Think this through carefully before you vote. It’s damn complex and damn risky. If we are wrong here, and vote this into law and it fails to deliver, it will stymie real change for the good for over a decade.

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