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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Senator Ranker chosen to chair new Senate Environment & Tourism Committee and lead on environmental budget

This will be an important position in the upcoming legislative session.


OLYMPIA – Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) was selected by his peers in the Senate Democratic Caucus to chair the new Environment & Tourism Committee in the 2019 Legislative Session.

“From our Salish Sea to our orcas to plastic pollution to community health and climate change, our environment and our children’s future has never been at greater risk,” said Ranker. “While the federal administration denies science and institutes reckless policies, Washingtonians want to protect and sustain the incredible quality of life in our communities. I am honored to help lead a powerful environmental agenda in both this new committee as well as our capital and operating budgets to make sure that we don’t just survive the next two years, but put in place incredible environmental policies that protect our environment and our future for generations.”

Recognizing the incredible environmental opportunities before us, the Senate is restructuring environmental oversight by establishing a new committee with general oversight of environmental protection and policies. The committee members will also work to boost our state’s tourism industry. A 2015 study showed that Washington’s outdoor recreation industry generates more than $20 billion annually.

Ranker will also serve as vice-chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee for the environment for both the capital and operating budgets where he will play a leadership role in the development of the critical environmental and natural resources budgets.

 

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.

Vicki Christiansen to stay on as head of Forest Service – High Country News

Seems like a reasonable choice.

Vicki Christiansen is set to become the permanent chief of the U.S. Forest Service, after seven months as the interim head. She replaced former Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke, who resigned amidst sexual harassment allegations in March.

https://www.hcn.org/articles/u-s-forest-service-vicki-christiansen-to-stay-on-as-head-of-forest-service?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email

Support the High Country News with a subscription. Support independent news!

 

EPA to eliminate office that advises Agency Chief on Science – NY Times

The EPA has abandoned any pretense at using science to instruct their decisions, made by their chief, who is an ex-coal lobbyist. The corruption in this administration will likely never be duplicated. We have not seen anything like this since the early part of the 1900s. You want to change it? Get out and vote.

 

 

Dems maintain control in Peninsula primaries

If there was any question about whether the Democrats (and Democratic incumbents at that) would maintain control of offices here on the Olympic Peninsula, that was pretty much laid to rest with the outcome of the primaries.

Senator Maria Cantwell (against a vast array of challengers), U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer,  State Representatives Tharinger and Chapman, all easily shook off the opposition, by very large percentages. In the hotly contested 5th District of Spokane, the race against the incumbent Republican Sally McMorris Rogers against newcomer Lisa Brown is in a virtual dead heat. Democrats from across the state have converged on Spokane to get out the vote, and they obviously succeeded. The November race will be one of the most closely watched in the country, along with likely being one of the most expensive as both parties will pour the money in to hold or win the seat. Obviously, the shenanigans in the White House and Congress did not help Ms. Rogers.

The 8th district is going to be tough. Dino Rossi easily overcame any opposition, and the Dems are going to have to coalesce behind their candidate, who at this moment appears to be Pediatrician Kim Schrier. However that race is too close to call at this moment.

In the usually Republican safe district 3,Jaime Herrera Beutler ran against the two Democratic opponents, Carolyn Long who brought in 36.1% of the votes and David McDevitt won 8.1% of the vote. If the Democrats can iron out their differences and show up to vote as a block in November, they should win.

Clallam County, which went for the President in the last election, decidedly shifted back to blue with the primary.  Republican candidates did very poorly in voter turnout. Democratic incumbents easily crushed Republican numbers.

In Jefferson County’s third district, the south part of the county, Greg Brotherton, a well liked owner of businesses, won over Ryan McCallister for the chance to run against Jon Cooke, the Republican challenger.

The Jefferson County Democratic faction called the “Progressives” did not succeed in their attempt to take over the  Jefferson County Democrats, as a majority of  the “Back on Track” Democratic Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs) won the precincts that they needed to win by approximately 21 to 38 (some are still too close to call).  The “Back on Track” faction is primarily those Democrats who have successfully destroyed Republican candidates for a decade, delivered Jefferson County to Obama twice, Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and then successfully delivered the county to Hilary Clinton, which angers some of the Bernie supporters, who felt that because they had won the primary in 2016 and Hillary lost (although she won the popular vote both in WA and nationwide, only losing in a few states that had nothing to do with the local Dems), that they were entitled to take control of the local party. That’s the backstory of why you saw more PCO candidates this year than ever before in the history of the county.

The tactics of the “progressives” appeared to turn off a lot of Democratic voters. Having been at a few Democratic meetings, the take no prisoners attitude and lack of decorum shown at the monthly meetings by some of their supporters seemed better suited to the rough and tumble world of Seattle politics, rather than the laid back nature of Jefferson County.  Hopefully both  factions will  hold hands in a circle and sing  “Kumbaya” at the annual Fish Fry.  Sitting back and not participating because your candidate didn’t win is not an option.  All hands are needed on deck in November to ensure that environmental and human rights protections are retained in WA DC, against the onslaught of the current administration. There is  no time left to stop man made global warming. The goal now is to start to understand how to live with it, along with how to help the climate refugees of Puerto Rico, Redding,  Santa Rosa, and many other locations burning up in this country.  For all we know, we may be next. The Republicans would do well to own up to global warming destroying the lives and homes of their constituents (Redding went heavily for Rs in the last election, including the President). Why not create a war on carbon based global warming? We’ve crushed ISIS. We are in an endless war on terror. The next endless war should be with anything involved in using the internal combustion engine or coal. That will last a lifetime or two.

Other news is that Joe Nole trounced Sheriff Stanko. This was perhaps the surprise of the election.  His common sense approach to tackling the issues of the sheriff’s department and concerns of collusion between the sheriff’s office and ICE was on the minds of voters.

Kennedy beat Haas for prosecutor’s office.  Kennedy very successfully pointed out that he had quit the office and went to work for Clallam County (while still living in Jefferson) and wanted to bring back what he considered better management of the office. Apparently voters agreed.

Kudos need to go out to State Democratic chairperson Tina Podlowski, who tirelessly hammered away at Washington Democrats to donate and get out the vote. Locally, the Democratic party at many levels, both “Progressives”and  the “Back on Track” people all did huge efforts to get out the vote for their candidates, which helped overall turnout. While some lost and some won, democracy was affirmed by the large voter turnout in Jefferson County. It is hard to say you didn’t have someone to vote for that could affirm your point of view, whatever it was. And a reminder that some of the greatest politicians our country has ever seen, from many political perspectives, were losers at least once. Losing in politics only means that your tactics and timing were off. Maybe next time they will align. No hard feelings. This is politics. Someone always loses. Figure out why. Then fix it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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