Clean Water priorities for the 2017 Washington State Legislature

January 5, 2017

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.

2017 legislative priorities

In collaboration with Washington Environmental Council’s 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:

1. Reducing toxic pollution in our communities.

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.

2. Enough water for people, farms, and fish.

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.

3. Oil transportation safety.

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.

How you can get involved

As residents of Washington state, it is our civic duty to engage in the legislative process and hold our elected officials accountable on environmental issues. If we don’t speak up for the environment, who will? How you can get involved:

  • Sign up for news from our clean water team. Get monthly emails with opportunities to engage in local water issues, plus occasional action alerts with information on how you can help push for clean water policies.
  • Attend our monthly activist meeting. Our activist meetings are focused on protecting the communities of the Salish Sea. Monthly meetings will include a legislative session update and ways to get involved.
  • Contact your legislator. Use this handy tool to enter your city or zip code and find your district and legislator. Then send them an email with comments on proposed legislation.