On January 9, the Washington State Legislature will convene for a four-month session of lawmaking and budgeting. It’s a big year with many priorities in front of our state officials, ranging from public education to addressing toxic cleanup sites like the Bellingham waterfront.
Environmental Priorities Coalition, the Clean Water program of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities is closely tracking legislative activity, and we will keep you informed about environmental issues that impact Whatcom County and the Salish Sea. Issues we are tracking include:
Washington must restore and stabilize funding for the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), the voter-approved law dedicated to cleaning up toxic waste sites, preventing harmful chemicals in manufacturing and products, controlling pollution to protect water quality, and supporting communities heavily impacted by toxic pollution threats. Funding for MTCA was gutted last year, due to the volatile nature of its funding source. This session, legislators must implement a more stable funding source to enact this important law for public health and safety.
The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled that counties must make sure there is enough available water before issuing permits for new developments in rural areas. After the ruling, requests were made for a “legislative fix” to the court’s ruling to allow business as usual, neglecting the problem and further depleting stream levels during critical times. Any proposed fix needs to protect instream flows and existing water rights.
Oil transportation continues to threaten the safety of our communities and the health of our environment. The urgency is now greater with the increased transport of crude oil to local refineries, the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline that would increase tanker traffic through the Salish Sea, and the $4 million funding shortfall for existing protections. Washington state must prioritize legislation to protect our waterways, improve pipeline safety measures, and ensure funding for oil spill response.