Archive for Environment

Community struggling with PTSD, economic recovery in the wake of Oso mudslide

By | November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Eight months after the deadly Oso mudslide, people in the community continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are struggling to move forward, local officials told lawmakers Thursday.

There is also a “tenseness” because of the uncertainty of what will happen to the Stillaguamish River during the flooding season, said Arlington mayor Barbara Tolbert at a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

“We have very resilient people in the community,” said Tolbert, who said the region’s next challenge is recovering economically from the disaster. A federally-funded economic review is underway, and the report should be completed early next year, she said.

The Oso mudslide on March 22 killed 43 people, burying dozens of homes and part of State Route 530. The road reopened to two-way traffic in September.

The committee also heard testimony from people involved in the recovery effort at the mudslide. Retired forest service member Peter Selvig listed several problems he encountered in the days after the mudslide as he helped organize efforts on the Darrington side of the disaster.

He said he was twice denied flood lights, and he also received pushback on the number of portable toilets and body bags he ordered. Communications were focused on the Arlington side of the disaster, he said, leaving the Darrington side with minimal services.

“These are some of the confusions that just rip your gut apart thinking that this was happening and there was nobody there to respond,” Selvig told the committee.

Watch the hearing below:

Carbon task force issues report on cap-and-trade and carbon tax approaches

By | November 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

A task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee to help craft a carbon pricing policy released a report on Monday that examines both a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax, although the group stopped short of making a policy recommendation.

The cap-and-trade approach sets a cap on the total amount of carbon that can be emitted during a specific time period. A fixed number of emissions “allowances” would be issued, and those allowances could be traded or auctioned off.

A carbon tax sets a price on each unit of carbon that’s emitted, with the price typically set in advance.

The task force said in its report that both strategies can “help the state build a coherent carbon emissions reduction strategy that aligns private incentives” to reach the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by the end of the decade.

However, the group cautioned that there are “substantial design challenges” in developing a policy.

Inslee talked about the report later in the day at a South Seattle community meeting about air quality.

“This morning, my task force gave me a report on a way to move forward to cap the amount of carbon and put a price for polluters to pollute our air and to me it makes sense that polluters who pollute our air ought not to be able to do that for free in unlimited quantities,” Inslee said.

“I’m excited to tell you we are going to be pursuing this in the next year in the state of Washington,” he said.

The task force wrote in the report that carbon prices should be established in a way that will “limit volatility and provide long-term certainty,” and take into consideration the impact it will have on businesses. The report also notes that the policy should “address equity and affordability concerns” for low-income and minority communities.

The transportation sector is the largest source of carbon emissions in the state, according to the report.

“With an explicit cost placed on carbon, the price of transportation fuel will increase,” it said.

The group recommends a comprehensive policy that addresses transportation-related issues, such as incentivizing the use of low or zero emission vehicles, expanding public transit and building alternative fuel infrastructure.

The task force concluded by saying that “certain important questions remain unanswered and further analysis will be important” to crafting a carbon pricing approach.

Read the full report here.

The 21-member group included representatives from business, labor, public health, tribal and government entities. The task force met half a dozen times throughout the year to draft the report.

The report will serve as an “important foundation” in developing a policy, Inslee wrote in a reponse letter to the report. “I understand your finding that each of the policy approaches under consideration offers strengths and weaknesses for Washington, and that market based approaches can make a unique contribution to reaching our statutory carbon emissions limits,” Inslee wrote.

Watch Monday’s carbon task force meeting below:

WSDOT update on fish passage barriers

By | June 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Department of Transportation is spending $36 million on replacing fish passage barriers during the current two-year budget cycle that ends in 2015, the most it has ever devoted to the project.

But it still falls short of the estimated $310 million needed each budget cycle to meet the U.S. District Court injunction requiring the state to fix hundreds of fish-blocking culverts by 2030.

WSDOT Director of Environmental Services Megan White said Wednesday the department is working in “good faith” to meet the deadline, but an estimated $2.4 billion dollars of work remains to be done.

“Replacing culverts isn’t easy,” White said.

The average cost of replacing a culvert is $3 million, she said, although some cost upwards of $20 million. The culverts must be built to last and able to handle a significant amount of traffic, White said.

Watch an interview about the issue on “The Impact” on Wednesday, June 4 at 7 & 10 p.m. More information about the project can be found here, including WSDOT’s response to last year’s court injunction requiring the state to increase its efforts in fixing the culverts.

Update: Watch “The Impact” below:

Widow of Oso mudslide victim urges state to take action

By | May 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

A woman whose husband died in the Oso landslide urged the state Forest Practices Board on Monday to enforce logging regulations and to let people know about the “dangerous creatures on our lands.”

“Nothing can prepare you for a loss like this,” said Deborah Durnell, whose husband Tom was buried by the landslide in their home on Steelhead Drive. “We owe it to every person who died to do all in our power to make sure logging regulations are adequate and that they are enforced.”

Durnell testified during a special all-day meeting Monday of the Forest Practices Board, which sets the standards for forest practices such as timber harvests. The board heard from several experts about the history and science behind landslides in the wake of the Oso mudslide, which left 41 people dead and two missing.

U.S. Geological Survey research scientist Jonathan Godt said the Oso landslide traveled “a remarkably far distance” of nearly a mile from the slope.

Geological maps show landslide activity was documented on that hill going back to the 1950s, with the most recent activity in 2006. Godt said an unusually wet spring likely contributed to the landslide. An earthquake has been ruled out as a factor, he said.

Godt estimated it would take years and several million dollars to answer key questions about the landslide, including why it traveled so far, how old it is and the location of similar landslide deposits.

But Peter Goldman of the Washington Forest Law Center told reporters that he doubts it would take that long, or cost that much money. He said the more important question is whether there was logging in the recharge zone, and if that zone was put in the right place.

“Did we increase the risk of a catastrophic landslide by allowing logging in areas where we know water gets into the ground? That needs to be modeled in retrospective,” said Goldman.

Goldman later told the board it should adopt an emergency rule imposing a moratorium on logging near landslides.

Rob Kavanaugh, who worked on the Stillaguamish River Basin Plan more than two decades ago, said the people who lived in the area weren’t notified that they were living in a catastrophic slide area.

“My concern is public safety. There are 43 dead people, and something went wrong with your system that allowed them to be killed. And you haven’t identified what it is that you’re doing wrong,” Kavanaugh told the board during the public comment period.

There are about 51,000 landslides in Washington state, according to data presented at Monday’s meeting. Of those, about 11,000 are deep-seated landslides like the Oso landslide. Deep-seated landslides are typically large and occur on terrain with a long history of landslides.

“Landslides will always be a natural part of our landscape in the the Pacific Northwest, and we will always have impacts due to the wet weather and geology,” said Mark Doumit of the Washington Forest Protection Association.

“It’s time for a broader public discussion to inform people and keep them out of harms’ way,” he said.

TVW taped the meeting — you can watch the first part here. We’ll update this post with a link to the second part of the meeting once it is available.

Categories: Environment

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.

Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.

PASSED:

Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.

Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.

Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)

Lawmakers aim to keep invasive species out of Washington’s waterways

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington lawmakers want to make sure invasive species do not infest the state’s waterways.

Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson (right) and aquatic invasive species coordinator, Allen Pleus (left) pose with zebra mussels.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that will address invasive species through an “integrated pest management” approach. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with a vote of 97-1 in the House.

The legislative action comes after zebra mussels, an invasive species from Russia, were spotted in Lake Powell, bordering Utah and Arizona. Zebra mussels multiply quickly, deplete water nutrients, clog pipes and take away natural resources from native species.

“This is a biological wildfire. What’s worse is that we don’t see the one that’s underwater,” said Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson at a previous Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the issue.

Senate Bill 6040 aims to manage invasive species by reinforcing monitoring checkpoints, providing technical assistance to environmental groups and giving a portion of tax revenues to prevention efforts. It will also conduct education and outreach programs to inform the public about the issue.

Supporters, including Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, said that the bill is critical to deal with the threat of invasive species more effectively and offers organizations more tools in case of emergency situations.

However, a funding source to implement these measures is not included in the bill.

During a Senate Floor Debate Thursday, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, said that the bill only establishes a policy because the House “stripped” the funding account leaving lawmakers to address the issue “next year.”

The governor’s signature is the final act needed for the bill to become a law.

Bill would preserve floating homes

By | February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Existing floating homes would be allowed to stay on Lake Union in Seattle and other shorelines, under a bill that passed in the Senate and was heard in a House committee Friday.

The move would be welcome by residents of floating homes, such as John Chaney, of the Lake Union Liveaboard Association, who says that houses like his do not deserve their reputation among regulators.

“We’re no longer the ‘shanty shacks’ that dump sewage and garbage into our state’s waters,” he said.

Photo by Dan Ramirez, http://www.flickr.com/photos/danramarch/

Floating homes differ from houseboats; houseboats have motors and are designed for navigation and floating homes are house structures built on a barge or a similar floating structure.

Under SB 6540 sponsored by Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), local governments would have to grandfather in floating on-water residences in local shoreline regulations if the homes were established lawfully by July 1, 2014.

However, Susan Neff, who lives in a houseboat on Lake Union, opposed the bill, saying that owners of floating homes are taking up shoreline space that can no longer be used by other boaters.

“I view this as an aquatic land grab,” she said. “The space is limited. We’re not building new marinas.”

She also feels there is not enough regulation on how floating homes are built.

But Barbara Ingram, who said her floating home on Lake Union is her main investment, said that shoreline regulations would force her at age 76 to buy a home or pay rent.

“Frankly, I can’t manage that,” she said.

The bill is one of several this session concerning on-water dwellings.

TVW webcast the hearing.

Senate approves study on nuclear power plants

By | February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Legislators in the Senate passed a bill that would create a task force to study nuclear power. The task force would look into using nuclear power to replace fossil fuels in Washington state.

Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) supported SB 5991 and said Washington is missing out on money the federal government has been investing in nuclear power in other states.

The Columbia Generating Station in Richland is the state’s only commercial nuclear power plant.

“There’s great opportunities and I think this task force will pave the way for new things happening in Washington state that provide low-cost, no-carbon, carbon-free power for years to come,” he said.

Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) said nuclear disasters in New Jersey, Chernobyl and Fukushima should serve as a warning.

“I was a 12-year-old girl in New Jersey when Three Mile Island had its leak, had its accident,” she said. “I would never put my children through that kind of fear.”

She said studying nuclear power is the wrong direction for Washington.

“Let’s not talk about expanding smaller nuclear packages throughout our state and putting more communities at risk.”

According to the bill the task force must consist of eight members that serve in the House and Senate committees that are concerned with energy issues. The members would be equally represented from the caucuses.

However, Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) says the U.S. Navy has been operating smaller nuclear reactors throughout the country, including at the naval bases near Bremerton.

“This can and is done in a safe and thoughtful manner. We shouldn’t just say no because it says nuclear, and I think this is a good approach.”

Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-Shoreline) said a study would help lawmakers make policy decisions based on facts.

“I am not afraid of a study. I believe a study a scientific study would give us both the pros and the cons of this proposal,” she said. “These smaller plants, do I know that they’re good? Do I know that they’re bad? No. I want to take a look at the study.”

Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) said his concern was over the bill’s language.

“I have a problem with the definitive statement by the legislature in the intent section that this is a safe industry,” he said. “We’ll be putting our imprimatur on it.”

Senate Bill 5991 passed 34-15. It would have to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the governor before becoming law.

Categories: Energy, Environment

Increased fines aim to discourage litterbugs

By | January 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

The House Environment Committee discussed a bill Wednesday that would nearly triple the penalty for littering to $125. Currently, littering in small amounts is a $50 fine.

Whether it’s a result of bad habits, lack of waste bins, overcrowding or a mixture of all these factors, litter is a problem in Washington.

In 2012, more than four million pounds of “stuff” was picked up by environmental groups in Washington, according to the Washington State Dept. of Ecology.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that West Coast communities spend more than half a billion dollars each year to control litter and marine debris.

Prime sponsor of the anti-littering bill, Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, said of raising the fine, “It’s the least we should do.”

The money collected from the higher fines would go towards litter-reduction efforts and state parks. No one testified at the hearing. The bill is scheduled for a committee vote on Friday.

Categories: Environment, Olympia, WA House

Invasive species threaten Washington’s waterways

By | January 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

They are small creatures that come from far away. And the damage they do can be intense.

Zebra mussels are an invasive species that multiply quickly, deplete water nutrients, clog pipes and take away natural resources from native species.

Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson (right) and aquatic invasive species coordinator, Allen Pleus (left) pose with zebra mussels.

Originally from Russia, they have spread through the Great Lakes in Michigan and Canada. Recently, they have been spotted in Lake Powell, bordering Utah and Arizona, putting extra pressure on lawmakers to take action.

“This is a biological wildfire. What’s worse is that we don’t see the one that’s underwater,” said Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson, who testified at Thursday’s hearing.

House Bill 2458 would use an “integrative pest management” strategy to control and prevent the spread of zebra mussels in Washington state.

The bill would provide community block grants that can be used for educational campaigns to inform the public about the issue. It would also expand inspection checkpoints and ensure organizations have access to tools that can help protect Washington’s waterways in case of  emergency situations.

Supporters testified at at the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing and said that Washington’s economy and ecology are at stake.

A group gathers to look at zebra mussels during an Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, said that these changes would not add fees because the bill would create a funding account for stricter oversight.

Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, raised concerns that the proposed strategy may not be the answer and questioned if these approaches have successful track records.

“Prevention is the only opportunity we have,” said Anderson in response.

Teen hunters would need adult supervision under proposed bill

By | January 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

No one younger than 16-years-old can get behind the wheel of a car alone. Yet, there is no age requirement for hunting alone. A new bill would change that.

Hunters gather in support of a new bill that would require youth hunters be accompanied by an adult.

The Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee discussed House Bill 2459, which would require young hunters to be accompanied by an adult when they are younger than 14-years-old. It would also establish that students need to be at least eight-years-old to enroll in hunter education training classes.

Supporters of the bill explained that younger students often need more attention, which distracts from the adults in classes. But the primary goal is to increase safety for children and prevent accidents from happening in the outdoors.

Certified hunting instruction chief, Bill Montgomery, added, “You’ve got to help kids when they’re young. They’ve got a lot of distractions like girls and video games.”

There was no testimony against the bill.

Categories: Environment
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On ‘Legislative Review:’ Gay conversion therapy, toxic toys and oil spill laws

By | January 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we cover two bills considered in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. One bill aims to end the practice of gay conversion therapy on minors, and the other would increase suicide prevention training for medical professionals.

We also have highlights from the floor debate about a bill that would ban certain flame retardants from being used in furniture and children’s products. Plus, a debate over a bill that would tighten the state’s oil spill laws.

Watch the show below:

GMO labeling debate shifts from ballot to state capitol

By | January 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

The controversial GMO debate resurfaced in Olympia today.

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on House Bill 2143, which would prohibit the production of genetically engineered fish in state waters. It would also require labels on GMO salmon.

Currently, there are no state or federal labeling requirements for genetically modified food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce a decision on allowing the production of genetically modified salmon. If approved, it could set a precedent for approval of other genetically modified animals.

Just a few months ago Washington voters turned down Initiative 522, which would have required labels on foods with genetically engineered ingredients.

Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, blamed the rejection on language problems with the initiative. Condotta, who is the prime sponsor of the fish bill, said that more than 60 percent of the public want to know if their food has been modified — especially when it comes to fish.

“Modifying an animal is different than a crop,” said Condotta.

Bill supporters added that modified fish may threaten natural habitats and raised concerns about the potential health risks of transgenic fish.

However, opponents said that the definition of “genetically modified” is too broad and that regulating state waters is an unrealistic solution to a nonexistent problem. Many testifiers said that the bill is not only unnecessary and unwanted, but also a scare-tactic with no scientific evidence.

“This is a time to let science rule, not emotion,” said John Dentler with Troutlodge, a trout producing company.

The lawmakers did not take action on the bill Friday.

Freshmen lawmakers discuss legislative priorities

By | January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Some of the newest members of the House discussed their personal legislative agendas for the upcoming session.

The representatives include: Rep. Tana Senn, D- Mercer Island, Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D- Seattle, Rep. Chad Magendanz, R- Issaquah, and Rep. Drew MacEwen, R- Union. Senn was appointed by the King County Council to fill a seat vacated by Marcie Maxwell, who resigned in July to join the governor’s office.

While the freshmen agreed that transportation is a key issue, they each have different bills that they are trying to push forward.

Here are their top priorities:

Senn, who is the newest member of House Democratic Caucus, said she plans to focus on childcare bills. She is also focused on finding ways to better integrate human services with early education. “I’m really looking at how we can make sure those can go hand-in-hand and remain together,” Senn said.

Magendanz is interested in improving the higher education system. He will propose a bill that would make Washington the 8th state to use “economic success metrics” to rank higher education institutions. The metrics help students decide which college will give them the “biggest bang for your buck,” Magendanz said.

Oil spill prevention is a top priority for Farrell. She is calling for stricter regulations and transparency for oil transportation policies. “We’re transporting more oil over land, we’re transporting more oil over water and we need to catch up to make sure our communities are safe,” Farrell said.

MacEwen said he wants to reform the state’s business and occupation tax, or B&O tax, to create a business culture in Washington where ”businesses want to stay here.” He is also supporting an aquatic invasive species protection bill to prevent a “catastrophic” outbreak.

The representatives admit that it may be more challenging to achieve their priorities in a short session. With a short 60 day session comes smaller ambitions. Since Washington law prohibits elected officials from raising funds during the session, there is political motivation to finish the job on time.

”There’s a lot of issues that are long-term issues and with this being a short session, I think we’re not going to tackle a lot of them,” Senn said.

TVW will air a segment about the freshmen lawmakers on this week’s edition of ”The Impact.” It will air Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 7 and 10 p.m.

State explores new fish consumption standards to reduce toxic exposure

By | November 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

Washington is weighing new fish consumption rates to better protect people from the cancer-causing toxins that can get into seafood, an issue that’s being closely watched by the state’s manufacturing industry.

Industries that discharge toxins into Washington’s waterways must abide by water pollution standards that are set based upon on how much fresh fish people are eating from those same waters.

Right now, the standards assume that people eat 6.5 grams a day. That’s roughly the size of a saltine cracker, or one 8-ounce fish fillet a month, Sen. Maralyn Chase said Thursday.

The current numbers are far below the amount of fish eaten by many of the state’s tribal members, and the Dept. of Ecology is researching alternatives for updating the consumption rate. The proposals aim to reduce expose to toxins such as arsenic, PCBs and mercury.

Kelly Susewind, the department’s water quality program manager, presented three alternatives during Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee:

  • Increasing to 125 grams of fish a day, or 8 pounds a month. That’s the average fish consumption rate of three Puget Sound tribes who were surveyed on their eating habits.
  • Increasing to 175 grams of fish a day, or 12 pounds a month. Oregon recently adopted this standard.
  • Increasing to 225 grams of fish a day, or 15 pounds a month. That’s the average rate based on data from the Suquamish Tribe and recreational fishers.

Depending on which scenario is adopted, it could tighten the state’s water pollution standards by 50 percent to 95 percent, Susewind said. For some industries, it could take more than 10 years to comply with those new standards, he said.

Boeing and other industries have opposed increasing fish consumption standards, saying it would require hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations.

Republican chair Sen. Doug Ericksen opened the hearing on Thursday by saying the issue was important in convincing Boeing to build its 777X airplane in Washington, and later asked about South Carolina’s fish consumption rate. The southern state is one of several that Boeing is considering for production of the 777X.

South Carolina’s fish consumption rate is 17.5 grams of fish per day, Susewind said, but it is very different in geography and population than Washington. “Other states probably don’t have the bounty of fish we do,” he said.

Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, said she was “offended” at the idea that water quality standards could be held “hostage to manufacturing, whether in the Puget Sound or South Carolina.”

Chase said the committee should use the “kind of standards we want for our grandchildren” as the benchmark for water pollution limits, not those of manufacturers.

The Dept. of Ecology will release its proposed rules for fish consumption in early 2014.

Categories: Aerospace, Environment

Agency extends public comment period for oil terminal planned in Vancouver

By | November 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

The agency overseeing the permitting process for a controversial oil terminal in Vancouver agreed Wednesday to extend the public comment period and hold an additional hearing about the project in Spokane.

Port of Vancouver

The proposal by Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies would create the Pacific Northwest’s largest oil terminal.

Oil would be brought by train from North Dakota to the Port of Vancouver in Washington, where it would be stored and then transferred to ships.

Hundreds of people turned out to speak about the proposal during two days of hearings in Vancouver last month, with many opposed to the project because of environmental concerns.

Others spoke about the risks associated with hauling oil by train through the Columbia River region. TVW taped the hearing.

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council organized the hearings as part of the scoping process to determine what should go into an environmental impact statement.

At a special meeting of the EFSEC council in Olympia on Wednesday, council manager Stephen Posner said there’s been 400 comments submitted so far about the project.

Posner recommended the agency extend the public comment period by 30 days and hold an additional hearing in Spokane to give more people a chance to weigh in.

Council chair Bill Lynch said he supported giving those in Eastern Washington who may be affected by train traffic an opportunity to comment. “It’s appropriate to have a hearing in Spokane,” Lynch said.

Posner said the hearing in Eastern Washington would likely be set for the second week of December. The public comment period would be extended until Dec. 18.

Categories: Environment

Despite cleanup efforts, some toxic sites in Washington continue to contaminate

By | October 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

During tough economic times, the state Legislature has routinely taken money out of an account designated for cleaning up toxic sites in Washington.

This year, legislators transferred $29 million out of the cleanup account, known as the Model Toxics Control Act, and made another one-time shift of $9.8 million dollars, according to budget officials.

Now it’s time to stop, environmental advocates told legislators during a committee hearing on Wednesday.

Rod Brown of the Washington Environmental Council said the Legislature has been raiding the account for several years. “At first we didn’t like it, but 2007 was a horrible year and the recession was bad for everyone,” he said. “We were quiet.”

But things are different now. “We’re out of the recession,” Brown said. “The raiding hasn’t slowed down, it’s increasing.”

In 1988, Washington voters approved a tax on hazardous materials in order to fund the Model Toxics Control Act, or MTCA. The account provides the state Ecology Department with about $200 million each year to clean up contaminated sites throughout the state.

Carol Kraege of the Ecology Department told lawmakers that there are persistent problems with some of the state’s cleanup sites.

Commencement Bay near Tacoma was cleaned up using money from the MTCA account, Kraege said. After removing metals and other chemicals, the agency discovered the bay is being recontaminated by phthalates that are used in plastics and personal care products, she said.

In the Spokane River, the agency is still finding high levels of PCBs after cleanup efforts, Kraege said.

And in the Puget Sound, there are an increasing number of intersex fish — male fish with female egg proteins — that Kraege said could be a result of exposure to chemicals.

“Despite having some very progressive and outstanding programs to address toxics in the environment, we still have problems that we don’t really have the tools to address,” Kraege said.

TVW taped the House Environment Committee hearing — watch it online here.

Categories: Environment

On TVW this week: Religion at work case, update on Model Toxics Control Act

By | October 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

Here’s what is airing this week on TVW. We’ll update this post as events get added.

Tuesday Oct. 22 at 9 a.m.: The Washington Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could determine if employers are required to accommodate their employees’ religious practices. It stems from a lawsuit brought by four employees of Gate Gourmet, a company that prepares airline food. Because of security reasons, the employees are not allowed to bring lunch to work. They argue that the company provided them meals without labeling the ingredients, leading some employees to unknowingly eat pork or other meats that violate their religious beliefs.

The Seattle Times has more details about the case here. TVW will air the arguments live on television.

Tuesday Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.: TVW will air a segment of the 2013 Washington Senior Citizens’ Foundation Conference. Speakers include Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on “Consumer Protection and Fraud Abuse.”

Wednesday Oct. 23 at 10 a.m.: The House Environment Committee is holding a work session to discuss the Model Toxics Control Act, which provides the state Ecology Department with funding to clean up sites contaminated by hazardous substances. The committee will get a funding and priority update on the account. TVW will air the hearing live on television and webcast it here.

Wednesday Oct. 23 at 6 p.m.: TVW will live webcast a public hearing of the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup chaired by Gov. Jay Inslee. The committee will be hearing public comments about how the state can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The meeting will be held at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle. Watch the webcast at this link.

Wednesday Oct. 23 at 7 & 10 p.m.: On this week’s edition of “The Impact,” host Anita Kissee looks at why the Dept. of Natural Resources is forcing houseboats and their owners out of Harbor waters. Plus, a conversation with the author of the country’s first public charter school.

Wednesday Oct. 23 at 8 p.m.: TVW will air a segment of the 2013 Washington Senior Citizens’ Foundation Conference. Speakers include Kevin W. Quigley, the Secretary of Department of Social & Health Services.

Thursday Oct. 24 at 9 a.m.: The Washington Supreme Court will hear a gain-sharing case that could affect state retirees enrolled in what’s known as “Plan 3.” The Washington Education Association brought the case, and has more details here.

Thursday Oct. 24 at 8 p.m.: TVW will air a segment of the 2013 Washington Senior Citizens’ Foundation Conference. A panel of speakers will discuss the state’s mental health services.

Categories: Environment, TVW

Two bills passed into law following late night floor action

By | June 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

The Senate passed a bill that fixes a state Supreme Court ruling on the estate tax just before midnight on Thursday, sending the bill to Gov. Jay Inslee‘s desk in the early hours of Friday morning to be signed into law. The House approved the same measure earlier in the day.

The move comes just in the nick of time — the state was due to start mailing out millions of dollars in tax refund checks on Friday morning if there wasn’t a legislative fix in place. The new law closes what supporters call a “loophole” in the estate tax law that allowed married couples to avoid paying the estate tax if they used a certain type of trust.

The Associated Press has the full story here, and you can watch TVW’s video of the Senate floor debate here.

Before the vote on the estate tax, both chambers quickly passed a bill to reform the state’s Model Toxics Control Act. The Senate first adopted the bill and sent it to the House shortly after 11 p.m., where it passed in less than 10 minutes. Inslee signed it into law at the same time as the estate tax bill.