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Environmentalists look to defend former gains

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Jan. 30, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
January 30, 2013 3:25 pm

Environmental activists today outlined their goals for changes in Olympia, including:

  • former Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s proposal to end a tax exemption for refineries, raising $63 million for the state and $23 million for local governments.
  • banning a group of chemicals known as chlorinated Tris in couches and children’s toys.
  • a study, with details not yet fleshed out, of how Washington might follow in the footsteps of British Columbia, California and Northeast states in regulating greenhouse gases, through some kind of carbon tax or cap-and-trade policy.

But they acknowledged in the conference call with reporters that the dynamics of the state Senate require more of their time to be spent “playing defense,” as the environmental coalition’s lobbyist, Clifford Traisman, put it today. Republicans have seized a 25-24 majority with the help of two breakaway Democrats.

There are more Draconian rollback bills being heard in the Senate than previously,” Traisman said. “We’re hoping that the Senate does not move those bills that would roll back Initiative 937 or negatively impact progress the state’s making on addressing storm-water pollution runoff. … We’re always confronted with challenges in protecting the Growth Management Act.”

I-937 set standards for power companies’ production of green energy. Many lawmakers want to make changes including recognizing hydroelectricity more fully as renewable power — including the new Republican chairman of the Senate energy committee, Doug Ericksen. 

The environmental coalition also targeted Ericksen’s proposed rewrite of the Model Toxics Control Act, the law that directs spending on cleaning up contaminated sites using taxes on industrial companies such as refineries. As Ericksen describes it on his website:

The truth is that MTCA in its current form has lost focus of its core mission. In the previous budget cycle, a vast majority of the funds generated by the tax went to purposes other than toxic clean-up. Meanwhile, over 1,900 toxic sites in our state are awaiting clean-up while the fund created by voters dedicated to that work is repeatedly being raided. That’s not acceptable to me. We should refocus MTCA on its original purpose and give these toxic sites new life.

His solution is to narrow the uses of the taxes and require the state Ecology Department to help clean up certain kinds of sites free of charge.

But the coalition says that would let polluters off the hook, and also wants taxes to continue to be spent on “prevention” as well as cleanup, said Darcy Nonemacher of the Washington Environmental Council — “making sure for example when a site is cleaned up we’re not recontaminating that site.”

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