All four goals for environment met
Cleaner water, cleaner fuels, wildlife protection among bills passed
April 24th, 2007 01:00 AM
Environmentalists were big winners this legislative session, finding strong support on everything from climate change measures to the creation of a new state agency to oversee the $8 billion task of restoring Puget Sound by 2020.
Environmental groups came to the Legislature with four priorities. This is the first year that all of their goals were not only met, but exceeded by another bill that addressed climate change by setting emissions goals in the state.
“I’m proud of the environmental agenda,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said late Sunday after the Legislature adjourned. “I think it will go down as one of the most important environmental sessions.”
Among the successes for environmentalists in the 105-day session:
• A measure, already signed into law by Gregoire, making Washington the first state to begin phasing out the use of the fireproofing chemical decaBDE that environmentalists say is a harmful toxin accumulating in people and waterways.
• A measure that encourages the use of cleaner-burning fuels, both through research and replacing or retrofitting diesel buses. Among other things, the measure directs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to give school districts incentives to use buses that burn ultra-low-sulfur fuels.
• A bill creating the Puget Sound Partnership, which will be responsible for setting priorities to meet the goal of a healthy Sound by 2020, plus $226 million in the budget for sound cleanup.
• An additional $100 million for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which awards grants to protect wildlife habitat and secure public access to parks, trails and shorelines.
“We brought issues to the Legislature that did not pit the environment against the economy,” said Clifford Traisman, a lobbyist for Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council. “When you do that, you have a very good chance to have your message heard.”
Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, chairman of a new House committee on environmental health, said that lawmakers are responding to what they’re hearing from their constituents.
“The public really wants this,” he said. “The politicians will get behind it because the public is demanding it.”
Climate change became a key issue early this year, when Gregoire signed an executive order in February setting goals to significantly reduce emissions through 2050.
Gregoire’s Climate Advisory Team, made up of more than 20 people representing environmental groups, business, labor, agriculture and others, had its first meeting last month. It will meet every few months, to determine further actions the state can take.
To complement the executive order, lawmakers passed a measure putting those goals into state statute, and prohibiting utilities from entering into long-term contracts with coal-fired power plants that produce excessive greenhouse gases.
“We focused in on the big picture and the basics,” House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said Monday. The measures that passed “are major efforts, every single one of those, having far-reaching impacts throughout the state of Washington.”
Sen. Erik Poulsen, a Seattle Democrat who was heavily involved in the climate change measures, said that while much progress was made, there’s much more to do. “Next year, we’ll have to get more serious about climate change,” he said.