Environmental lobby won in '07
Published April 30, 2007
The 2007 legislative session might go down in history as one of the most successful for the state's environmental community.
Environmentalists started their winning streak last November with voter passage of Initiative 937, which requires electric utilities to invest in conservation and renewable sources of energy.
Banding together in a 22-member environmental coalition, they came into the session in January with four primary goals:
• Support Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget request of $220 million in additional money to clean up and protect Puget Sound.
• Promote biofuel technology and increased use of clean fuels and vehicles.
• Press for $100 million in the state construction budget to double state funding for the purchase of land for parks, wildlife habitat and to save farms and shorelines.
• Pass a bill to phase out use of toxic flame retardants in certain consumer products such as electronics, mattresses, floor coverings and drapes.
Environmentalists scored victories in all four areas.
"Big session, big wins," is the way Washington Environmental Council spokesman Tom Geiger summed up the 105-day session.
"The success of all four coalition priorities speaks volumes about the priorities in Olympia," said Clifford Traisman, state lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. "We continue to show how improved protections for the environment go hand in hand with the economy."
Perhaps the most significant victory came with the creation of a new agency, the Puget Sound Partnership, to govern the cleanup of Puget Sound. The governor has made it her top environmental priority and set a goal of achieving a clean Puget Sound by 2020.
The legislation establishes strong recovery and protection goals, an independent science advisory committee, priority for funding Puget Sound cleanup projects, and accountability measures to ensure that progress is being achieved.
"This is a huge win and a red-letter day for Puget Sound," said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People For Puget Sound. "An independent state agency will now be accountable for restoring the Sound to health by 2020.
"The next step is to create the funding we need to get action."
Another far-reaching accomplishment is $100 million appropriation for the Wildlife and Recreation Program to fund purchase of parks space, fish and wildlife habitat, trails and farmland conservation easements. That's double the Legislature's previous allotment and $30 million more than the governor proposed.
Environmentalists had to compromise on the biofuels bill, but the final version sets an ambitious goal for the state and local government vehicle fleets to use 100 percent biofuels by 2015.
After rejecting a similar bill in 2006, the Legislature made Washington the first state to phase in a ban on toxic flame retardants in consumer products such as computers. "This is a major victory for the health of our children and Puget Sound, and will likely lead to similar laws in other states," said Gregg Small of the Washington Toxics Coalition. The governor has already signed the bill into law.
The environmental community, lawmakers and Gov. Gregoire can point with pride to their legislative accomplishments in the 2007 session. The public wins when the environment wins.