Each year, as lawmakers get to work in Olympia, the state’s largest environmental groups agree on legislative priorities. This session, the Washington Environmental Council and the Washington Conservation Voters are focused on water rights, oil transportation safety and cleaning up toxics.
About 23 groups set the agenda for the Environmental Priorities Coalition. Topping their list this session is a recent decision from the state Supreme Court that says new housing development can only be approved when it won’t take too much water from existing homes, farms and rivers.
The coalition’s lobbyist, Clifford Traisman, says it’s clear that balancing water needs will be a priority of the Legislature this year.
“And we would like to be part of the solution and be part of the discussion, so we can have development, but do so in a salmon-friendly way,” he said.
The other two priorities have to do with making sure there is adequate funding for environmental laws. First and foremost, Trasiman says they need to update the law passed two years ago on safe transportation of oil by rail.
“This bill would create a sustainable fund source for that, while also addressing the threats on the marine side,” he said.
And that includes pipeline issues, such getting safeguards in place for the anticipated sevenfold increase in tanker traffic through Puget Sound as Kinder Morgan expands the Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada.
Finally, the coalition is joining the Department of Ecology in requesting a temporary surcharge on a hazardous substance tax, to ensure the cleanup of toxic waste sites. Currently, there’s a $70 million shortfall that the coalition says threatens to stall that work.