Washington State Legislature funds grants for community education on toxic cleanups, but rest of environmental priorities a mixed bag

July 13, 2017

From funding for toxic cleanups to oil transportation safety and sound policies on water availability, the environmental community had huge goals for the state legislative session.

Our outcomes were a mixed bag this year, but there’s some cause to celebrate. Earlier this week, we learned that our legislators fully funded public participation grants (PPG) — grants for organizations like ours to educate the community about projects to clean up toxic sites like the Bellingham waterfront. This success is thanks to dedicated people like you. Thank you for letting your legislators know what Washington residents value.

The state legislature went into two overtime sessions to approve a two-year operating budget by their June 30th deadline, but the details of a second budget — the capital budget — are still up in the air. The capital would invest in more than 1,400 projects across Washington, including 75 school construction projects and funding for toxic cleanup projects through the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA).

The state legislature is now in its third special session to try and pass a capital budget, and the deadline is July 20th. We’ll be keeping our eye on the capital budget process and report back soon.

With your help, we were successful in:
  • Securing funding for public participation grants (PPG) to educate the community about toxic cleanups,
  • Pushing Inslee to veto a major tax cut for manufacturing businesses and a tax break for a Centralia power plant to convert from coal to natural gas,
  • Funding the Clean Air Rule to reduce carbon pollution tied to climate change,
  • Closing the Big Oil Loophole, an unfair tax benefit for out-of-state oil companies, and
  • Passing incentives to expand the use of solar energy. (Read more on solar in our blog.)
Unfortunately, there were some disappointments:
  • The legislature failed to address a $3.2 million shortfall in the state’s oil spill prevention program, and
  • The operating budget continued to raid MTCA funding to backfill funding for the Department of Ecology and the Department of Natural Resources.

There are two weeks left to get our legislators to act on the capital budget, which would fund three key needs for communities across the state:

  • Stabilizing MTCA funding for cleaning up toxic sites and preventing pollution,
  • Ensuring any new wells are properly mitigated to protect fish and existing water rights, and
  • Advancing projects for the environment and job creation by adopting the $4 billion capital budget.

Read more below to learn how you can take action to call on your legislators to find balanced solutions and pass the capital budget.

Funding for toxic cleanups
Although the legislature approved a two-year operating budget by their June 30th deadline, the details of a second budget — the capital budget — are still up in the air. We won’t know where Model Toxics Cleanup Act (MTCA) funding lands until the final capital budget is approved.

The House’s capital budget included funding for MTCA, but right now, it’s unknown how the Senate might change the House’s capital budget. We’re keeping our eye on the capital budget process and will report back soon.

Oil transportation safety
Oil transportation threatens the safety of our communities and the health of our environment, and this legislative session, we asked you to call on state leaders to prioritize legislation to protect our waterways, improve pipeline safety measures, and ensure funding for oil spill response.

Funding for oil transportation safety and the Department of Ecology’s Spills Program were part of the final negotiation process. But ultimately, the bill that would have secured a reliable funding source and strengthened the tools to address oil spills did not pass.

This means the Spills Program has a $3.2M shortfall, and we must start looking ahead to the next legislative session to again push for stronger oil transportation safety measures in Washington state.

Enough water for people, farms, and fish
The hot issue during this legislative session surrounded the recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling 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 allow business as usual. This would have neglected the problem and failed to protect in-stream flows and existing water rights.

Several bills were proposed this legislative session to address the ruling, but legislators couldn’t come to a consensus. The House overwhelmingly approved the capital budget, but it is being blocked from a vote by Senate Republicans, who say they’re holding the budget as leverage over a bill to overturn the state Supreme Court ruling on water rights.

Governor Inslee has called on Senate Republicans to pass the $4.2 billion capital budget. Read more in this press release from Gov. Inslee’s office.

Take Action
A capital budget is essential for environmental health and creating jobs. There is roughly $340 million in funding at stake for green projects such as cleaning up toxic sites, clean energy, forest restoration, and green stormwater infrastructure. Without a capital budget, these projects will be stalled and possibly defunded.

Please contact your legislator TODAY and urge them to adopt a new, two-year capital budget to invest in creating jobs and protecting our environment.

Contacting your legislators by phone is by far the most productive and impactful form of communication. Read more in the New York Times article “Here’s why you should call, not email, your legislators.” 

  1. Call your legislators. Let your state representatives know you want them to find balanced solutions and pass a capital budget. Find your legislators through the Washington State Legislature’s District Finder and view the talking points below.
  2. Email your legislators. Find your legislators through the Washington State Legislature’s District Finder and send them an email asking them to find balanced solutions and pass a capital budget.