On the night of March 8th, the Washington State legislature adjourned the 2018 Legislative Session — the first time they adjourned on time in four years! The Legislature stayed busy passing bills to protect the Salish Sea from Atlantic salmon net pen aquaculture, and to improve our state’s oil spill response readiness. Unfortunately, not all of our environmental priorities made it across the finish line. Our 2018 environmental priorities focused on oil transportation safety, phasing out Atlantic salmon operations in marine waters, acting on climate, and sustainable water supply legislation.
Read on for the lowdown on the 2018 Legislative Session wins, losses, and what’s on the horizon.
Two of our environmental priorities made it through the legislature and are currently awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature to become law.
- Oil Spill Prevention Act (E2SSB 6269) – This legislation fully funds the state’s Oil Spills program, until now underfunded by $2 million, by extending the state barrel tax to apply to pipelines. It also convenes a summit between British Columbia and Washington state to better coordinate on the increased cross-boundary threats of an oil spill in the Salish Sea.
- Phasing out Atlantic salmon (EHB 2957) – Cooke Aquaculture’s disastrous net pen collapse at their Cypress Island operation last August, releasing over 200,000 non-native fish into Puget Sound, expanded public awareness of the pollution and threats to our wild salmon that such aquaculture poses. Most people had no idea Atlantic Salmon were being raised this way in the Salish Sea. This legislation discontinues aquatic land leases for the purposes of raising Atlantic Salmon in open-water marine net pens with the final lease expiring in 2025.
Other environmental successes
- Pesticide Safety Workgroup (E2SSB 6529) – Convenes a work group to identify reasonable strategies to protect people from exposure to harmful pesticides that drift and settle on clothing, skin, fields, playgrounds, lawns, and streams. Pesticide exposure causes illness and impacts farmworkers, nearby communities, and the environment.
- Healthy Food Packaging Act (ESHB 2658) – Phases out a class of chemicals (PFAS) in paper food packaging (such as fast food and bakery wrappers and popcorn bags) that persist for long periods of time in the environment, and have been shown to contaminate food and ecosystems. Cleaning up PFAS contamination in drinking water and the environment is extremely costly. Preventing contamination saves taxpayers money.
- Toxics in Firefighting Foam (ESSB 6413): Phases out PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam, which have been shown to cause cancer, and requires anyone selling firefighting gear containing PFAS to notify the buyer. Firefighting foam containing these extremely long-lasting chemicals has contaminated drinking water in Issaquah, Coupeville, and Airway Heights. Firefighters are also exposed to PFAS chemicals when they use the foam, or wear gear treated with these chemicals. Cancer is the leading cause of death of firefighters.
Please thank your Senator and Representatives if they voted for any of the above legislation (you can check by clicking the above hyperlinks. Scroll down to and click on “View Roll Calls” for the House and Senate floor votes). A little positivity goes a long way!
Unfortunately, our other two environmental priorities – sustainable water supply and climate action – did not prevail this session.
Sustainable Water Supply
As was mentioned in our January 26 post, we were not pleased with the passage of the Streamflow Restoration Act (ESSB 6091). This legislation temporarily resumes business as usual before the State Supreme court’s 2016 decision in Whatcom County v. Hirst, et al allowing unchecked water use by new permit-exempt wells. On the bright side, the legislation requires local communities to find solutions for offsetting the impacts of permit-exempt wells. We see this as an opportunity to educate those in our community about our seasonal water shortages in the Nooksack River watershed.
Legislators proposed a slew of climate and clean energy bills, but none of them made it to a final vote this year.
- Governor Inslee’s climate bill (2SSB 6203).
- Solar Fairness Act (ESSB 6081).
- 100% clean energy by 2030 (SHB 2995).
- Low Carbon Fuel Standard (2SHB 2338).
- Aligning with goals of the Paris climate accord (HB 2294).
- Concerning the electrification of transportation (ESSB 6187).
Immediately after the Governor announced that SB6203 definitively lacked enough votes to pass, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy filed our citizen’s initiative last week. Get in touch with Eddy Ury if you’d like to help with the signature gathering effort this Spring! Help is needed in order to get enough signatures for this to be on the November 2018 statewide ballot. RE Sources is the regional organizing hub for the statewide Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.
What’s on the horizon
Protecting communities from toxic pollution, orca protections, and sustainable water supply legislation will likely be hot topics in the 2019 legislative session. In the meantime, legislators will be back in district from now until the end of the year. It’s a good time to engage them on issues that are important to you in preparation for next year.