Praise for Priorities for a Healthy Washington —

Praise for Priorities for a Healthy Washington

EDITORIAL © Jan. 24, 2007, The Olympian


Ban flame retardants                 
There is safety in numbers. But as members of the multiple environmental organizations in this state have learned, there's also a great deal of clout to be gained by pooling resources, setting priorities and working toward a coordinated agenda in a collaborative fashion.

Other advocacy and special interest groups could learn a thing or two from the environmentalists who continue to flex their muscle in the state Legislature and gain favor among voters.

Environmentalists scored a significant victory last November with Initiative 937, which requires electric utilities to invest in conservation and renewable sources of energy. The goal by 2020 is to have utilities produce 15 percent of their energy via renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Hydroelectricity does not count as a renewable resource.

Fresh off that election victory, and other significant wins in previous legislative sessions, environmental organizations came to the 2007 Legislature with a limited list of priorities.

It's a great strategy they have used in recent years. The 21 environmental groups - from Climate Solutions to Sierra Club, from the Nature Conservancy to Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition - forced themselves to set priorities from a laundry list of needs. Priority setting gives them a focused agenda and acknowledges that some issues are more important than others. They've arrived at reasonable proposals that lawmakers can grasp easily and pass into law. More advocacy groups ought to emulate the environmentalists' strategy.

Four priorities

The four priorities are:

• 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. Gregoire calls for $70 million.

• Pass a bill to phase out use of toxic flame retardants in certain consumer products such as electronics, mattresses, floor coverings and drapes.

This editorial board has already supported the need to protect and enhance Puget Sound and to purchase additional open space for future generations. Today we add our voice to that of the environmental community in support of a ban on flame retardants if the science upholds the need for a ban.

Household products

Common household products such as televisions, computers, chair cushions and other furniture are treated with flame-retardant chemicals known as PBDEs. Those toxic chemicals are contaminating our environment - showing up in increasing concentrations in mothers' milk, in orca whales and in the waters of Puget Sound.

After a year of study, officials at the State Department of Ecology have recommended that Washington become the first state in the nation to phase out the use of all three forms of PBDEs - penta, octa and deca. The goal is to ban all products with PBDEs by 2011.

Manufacturers have already moved away from penta and octa, but continue to make products with deca. However some companies, such as Ikea, Hewlett-Packard and Dell don't use deca-based flame retardants in their products. Countries in Europe have taken the lead on the ban. It's time for this state and this nation to follow that lead if it can be proven that deca is harming our environemnt.

Chemical manufacturers opposed

Mo McBroom with the Washington Environmental Council says furniture and electronic manufacturers are not fighting the ban. The opposition comes from the makers of the chemicals. The Association of Washington Business also is opposed, according to executive director Don Brunell. Their opposition is based on the belief that scientific studies have not sufficiently concluded that deca is a danger to the environment and that there are sufficient replacement chemicals to e nsure the construction of safe products.

Those questions need to be resolved as the legislation moves forward.

If deca is banned, warn business officials, the price of products will increase.

Fair enough. But we owe it to our children and their children to create an environment free of neurotoxins that can affect learning, memory and behavior. We must do all within our power and financial resources to clean up the environment for future generations.

We simply have to live smarter to live longer.

For more information

• Tracking a bill: To view the text of any bill, and for background information, a summary of committee testimony and how individual legislators voted, go to www.leg.wa.gov/legislature.

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