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Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Gregoire’

What’s to happen with funding for Puget Sound?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Finding money for Puget Sound restoration is likely to become more difficult next year as legislative power shifts to Republicans in the state Senate and the Legislature wrestles with funding for education.

The power shift follows the defection of two Democratic senators to effectively create a Republican majority in the Senate. See reporter Mike Baker’s story for the Associated Press.

The upcoming budget debate will no doubt revolve around new funding for education. The State Supreme Court has ruled that the Legislature must find more money to fund basic educational needs, as required by the Washington State Constitution. Gov. Chris Gregoire has been talking about proposing a new dedicated tax, but now opponents of tax increases will have a stronger position.

Gov.-elect Jay Inslee ran on a no-new-taxes pledge, so it is likely that all state programs will go back on the chopping block, and nobody can predict what will come out of the turmoil.

Inslee told me a month ago that he could not predict whether Puget Sound programs would get more or less money, but he considered the state’s “paramount duty” to be education. Please review the Kitsap Sun story on Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gregoire told Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber that her greatest disappointment was not getting more done to restore Puget Sound:

“Because that’s forever. That’s a big forever issue for this state. What I think happened… is we were on our way, and then we just got taken to our knees by the recession. While I kept funding it through other means, it didn’t get the focus I think it needs and deserves because I was so consumed by the recession.”

The governor told me during an interview last month that she still hopes the Legislature can find more money for Puget Sound — including a stable funding source — once the state gets to a stronger financial footing:

“We kept putting money in… I kept pushing for ongoing funding, and we will have to continue to do that for awhile.

“When the recession hit, I have to say that everybody’s attention got drawn away. People wondered, ‘Can I put food on the table? Am I going to lose my job?’ It was so all-consuming that I couldn’t focus on the sound.

“There was a lot of talk about a flush tax. We have never really done the research on it. The last couple of years was no time to be thinking about that. We have demands for education and transportation. But at some point we will have to find the ability to (pay for) more capital projects.

“I think we have held our own and made some improvement, but not the improvement we should have. We have to kick it up. The population continues to grow. We’re going to have to kick it up or we are going to lose ground. I’m not proud of the fact that we are kind of treading water right now.”

Gov. Gregoire also acknowledged to me that federal funding for Puget Sound could become more difficult with the retirement of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, who has been a powerful advocate for Puget Sound. On the other hand, she has hope that Norm’s effort through the years and the establishment of the Puget Sound Partnership with provide ongoing credibility for the program. She also believes that Norm’s replacement, Democrat Derek Kilmer, will be a strong advocate for Puget Sound, along with the state’s two U.S. senators.

Other comments from my interview with the governor were used in the first story in what will be an ongoing series about the Puget Sound Partnership’s ecosystem indicators. See Kitsap Sun, Nov. 24.

Speaking of money for Puget Sound, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board has approved $19.2 million statewide for salmon projects next year. I focused my story in yesterday’s Kitsap Sun on estuary projects in Hood Canal, but the full list of projects (PDF 279 kb) can be downloaded from the website of the Recreation and Conservation Office.

It might be interesting to review the history of these grants, year by year. The following are the annual allocations with links to more details:

2013: $19.2 million. News release, Dec. 10, 2012

2012: $30 million. News release, Dec. 12, 2011

2011: $19.8 million. News release, Dec. 20, 2010

2010: $42.8 million. News release, Dec. 15, 2009

2009: $19.8 million. News release, Dec. 12, 2008

2008: $60 million. News release (PDF 360 kb), Dec. 19, 2007

2007: $16.6 million. News release (PDF 262 kb), Dec. 8, 2006

2006: $26.6 million. News release (PDF 262 kb), Jan. 11, 2006

2005: $26.7 million. News release (PDF 188 kb), Dec. 9, 2004 (Gov. Gary Locke)


Washington leading on ocean acidification

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Ocean acidification is hitting Washington’s shellfish industry even before we begin to experience the full effects of climate change, and Gov. Chris Gregoire placed this state in the forefront of action Tuesday when she signed an executive order on the issue.

The order supports the findings of the governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification. Check out the story I wrote for yesterday’s Kitsap Sun.

The panel released the report during an hour-long presentation of the findings. If you have time, I recommend watching the informative presentation, provided by TVW in the player at right.

The executive summary of the report, as well as the full report, its appendices and the governor’s order, can be downloaded from panel’s webpage on the Washington Department of Ecology website.

Gregoire’s order is considered the first state-level action on ocean acidification — and that has attracted attention from across the country. For example, stories were written by environmental reporter Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post and by Virginia Gewin of Nature magazine.

Ocean acidification has been called the “evil twin” of global warming, because the effects can be more swift and more severe than gradual warming of the Earth. That’s not to discount other serious effects of climate change, including increased frequency of severe storms, sea level rise with increasing flooding, and heat waves with crippling effects on agriculture. But acidification affects organisms at the base of the entire food web.

The effects of ocean acidification will not be reversed for a long, long time, even if greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control. The upwelling of old water along the coast brings this problem right to our doorstep now and for the foreseeable future.

The shift from coal to natural gas, along with the downturn in the economy, has significantly reduced emissions of carbon dioxide in this country the past couple years, but the levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases continue to go up.

“Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general for the World Meteorological Association, in a press release issued yesterday.

The WMA reported that the years 2001–2011 were all among the warmest on record, and it appears that 2012 will continue the trend, despite a cooling influence from La Niña early this year.

“Naturally occurring climate variability due to phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña impact on temperatures and precipitation on a seasonal to annual scale,” Jarraud said. “But they do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities.

“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere,” he added.

Environmental correspondent Alister Doyle reported today for Reuters that the United Nations Panel on Climate Change now believes that it is more certain than ever that humans are the primary cause of global warming.

In its 2007 report, the panel pegged the certainty at more than 90 percent. Now, it appears likely that the scientists will increase that certainty in the next report in 2013, said Rajendra Pachauri, head of the panel who spoke with Doyle at a climate conference in Qatar.

“We certainly have a substantial amount of information available by which I hope we can narrow the gaps, increase the level of certainty of our findings,” he said, adding that analyses also will increase the predicted rate of sea-level rise.

Meanwhile, the “Draft National Ocean Policy and Implementation Plan” is still undergoing review by the National Ocean Council. The report contains a chapter called “Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification” (PDF 732 kb). That chapter contains some of the same recommendations offered by Washington state’s Blue Ribbon Panel, but the state plan is more specific and comes with a recommended $3.3 million budget to begin work on the problem.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is attempting to derail the plan, saying it creates an unnecessary bureaucracy and asserts federal controls not approved by Congress. Read the news release about House action against the plan.

I have not talked to anyone on the council lately, but it appears that President Obama’s election campaign over the past year effectively derailed any movement on this issue. In his first press conference after the election, he pledged to jump-start the climate-change effort, but no mention was made of the ocean policy. Review the video below at 42:20.


Incoming and outgoing governors view Puget Sound

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire and her replacement, Jay Inslee, still have great hopes for the future health of Puget Sound, as I learned when I interviewed them separately in recent days.

I reserved some of the governor’s comments for a story that appeared in today’s Kitsap Sun titled “Human values count in Puget Sound recovery.”

Jim Barnes of Olympia partakes of an abundance of oysters at Twanoh State Park, which meets outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire’s call for beaches that are “swimmable, diggable and fishable.” / Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid

This is the first of an undetermined number of stories I’ll be writing over the next year or so dealing with ecosystem indicators. Indicators are selected measures to help us understand the pace of progress in restoring Puget Sound. I hope the upcoming stories will reveal something about the functioning of the ecosystem and how the various pieces fit together.

The first story today addresses human health and quality of life, which have always been a central focus of Chris Gregoire’s effort to make sure Puget Sound is “swimmable, diggable and fishable” for future generations.

“Things have not moved as quickly as I had hoped,” the governor told me, referring to efforts by the Puget Sound Partnership. “I thought we got off with a bang, including public engagement. Now, we are into the tough stuff.”

She recalled how, years ago, cleanup efforts focused on reducing industrial discharges. That includes the period from 1988 to 1992, when she served as director of the Washington Department of Ecology. Now most of the serious pollutants reach Puget Sound through stormwater runoff. The current effort is to reduce the volume of water flowing across the ground while eliminating a huge variety of pollutants at their source.

If you read the comments at the end of news stories regarding the Puget Sound Partnership, you could come to believe that the agency has a long way to go in convincing the average person that he or she is part of the problem. But many of the comments are made by cranky people who seem unlikely to be convinced of anything.

In general, most people really care about Puget Sound and simply need help in taking the right steps, according to surveys. In my story today, the partnership’s Dave Ward talks about an indicator that could help measure changes in human behavior.

As for Gov.-elect Jay Inslee, it is hard to tell how things will change under his leadership. He reminded me in our interview that he faces severe budget difficulties — and money certainly is a major factor in Puget Sound recovery. See my story in the Nov. 15 Kitsap Sun.

To the dismay of some opponents, Inslee has always been a strong advocate for the environment. That is not likely to change. He has been a leader on climate change and clean energy, and he has a deep-rooted passion for Puget Sound and the surrounding forests. I learned a good deal about his views a decade ago during an extended interview, which involved a hike through a roadless area in Olympic National Forest. See the Kitsap Sun story from May 19, 2002.

Gov. Chris Gregoire tours an oyster nursery near Shelton in October 2010.
Kitsap Sun file photo by Larry Steagall

While the governor-elect has no immediate plans to change the structure of the Puget Sound Partnership, he stressed that he wants to ensure that restoration projects are guided by science.

Gregoire said during our recent discussion that she would advise the incoming governor to keep up the pressure on the partnership, and she hoped that more funding will become available as the economy recovers.

In October 2010, if you recall, Gregoire emphasized the importance of maintaining Puget Sound programs, despite the financial crisis.

“We are in the hardest economic problem since the deep depression, but we cannot take a recess; we cannot take time out,” she said at that time during a tour of Belfair’s new sewage-treatment plant. See Kitsap Sun, Oct. 15.

In our recent discussion, the governor said she was not able to find as much money for Puget Sound as she had hoped. Here’s how she put it:

“We kept putting money in. We couldn’t let up. I kept pushing for ongoing funding, and we will have to continue to do that for awhile.

“I think we have held our own and made some improvement, but not the improvement we should have. The population continues to grow. We’re going to have to kick it up or we are going to lose ground. I’m not proud of the fact that we are kind of treading water right now.”

She said things are unlikely to get easier right away, because the state is still struggling with its budget. Furthermore, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a successful advocate for federal funding, is leaving office. Dicks was instrumental in putting Puget Sound on a national stage, on par with Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, Gregoire said. She expressed hope that the increased profile for Puget Sound will endure with the help of others in the state’s congressional delegation.

As Washington’s economy recovers, Chris Gregoire would like to see talks turn to a stable funding source, such as a “flush tax” on residents in the Puget Sound region. Another idea debated in the Legislature was a tax on oil and chemical products that could be used for stormwater improvements. Gregoire continues:

“There’s been a lot of talk about a flush tax. We have never really done the research on that. The last couple of years was no time to be thinking about that. We have demands on education and transportation. But we need a sustained reliable source of funding.

“And we need public support. Unless and until we get everyone engaged, we are not going to make it…. I think we are well on our way. Local communities are doing a lot of volunteer work. School groups are monitoring the environment….

“When the recession hit, I have to say, everybody’s attention got drawn away by other concerns: ‘Can I put food on the table? Am I going to lose my job?’

“Now we’ve got to find a better way. We have to have a bottoms-up approach. People must consider themselves part of the solution.”


Gov. prepares to ‘pass the baton’ on Puget Sound

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Nobody doubts the passion that Gov. Chris Gregoire holds for Puget Sound or that she was instrumental in setting up the Puget Sound Partnership, which has charted a course for restoration.

But how will the work to protect Puget Sound proceed under a new governor?


Gov. Chris Gregoire (right) praises a new environmental mitigation program during a tour of Hood Canal aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sea Devil. Looking on are Martha Kongsgaard (left), chairwoman of the Puget Sound Leadership Council, and Gail Terzi, mitigation program manager with Seattle District Army Corps of Engineers.
Kitsap Sun photo by Christopher Dunagan

It’s an issue that has not been discussed much in the ongoing governor’s race. (I need to question the candidates on this issue.) But I had a chance yesterday to chat with the governor over coffee (she had tea) in the galley of the Coast Guard cutter Sea Devil on the way to Dabob Bay.

“I created it, so the next governor can uncreate it,” Gregoire told me simply, a comment I reported in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Still, she said, the partnership fills a need in coordinating the work of many government agencies, businesses and private groups. The effort has increased awareness and provided accountability needed to bring restoration dollars to the region. She seemed to be saying that whatever management structure is used, coordination will remain essential to the effort.

Gregoire filled me in on a story I had never heard before, one she later repeated for the 15 or so visitors on the boat ride across Hood Canal. It was about how the Puget Sound Partnership grew from a spark of an idea that erupted over a lunch with U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks.

“We were excited and got quite loud, as you can imagine with Norm Dicks,” she said. “It was quite a shouting match, and everyone in the restaurant was watching us.”

After that lunch, Gregoire called on Bill Ruckelshaus, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to head a study commission leading up to formation of the Puget Sound Partnership, as I reported in today’s story.

Both Gregoire and Dicks will leave office at the end of the year, and the governor says she is ready to pass the baton to others.

The reason for yesterday’s boat ride was to celebrate a new in-lieu-fee mitigation program for Hood Canal, which could be a model for other parts of Puget Sound and, as some suggested yesterday, for the entire nation.

The idea is that developers would pay a flat fee rather than construct a mitigation project on their own. Money could be pooled, if necessary, to promote significant long-term ecological protections.

The Navy is expected to jump-start the effort with several million dollars for mitigation of damage from its proposed $715-million explosives handling wharf to service submarines at Bangor on Hood Canal.

Rather than rehash all the work that has gone into fashioning this rare mitigation program, I’ll refer you to my stories and other sources. One thing to note is that the mitigation plan — outlined in a document called an “instrument” — includes a complex accounting system to keep track of the money as well as ecological debits and credits. It’s all geared to ensure that the environmental damage from development is fully compensated in ecological functions.

Here are some links for further reading:

May 9, 2011: Hood Canal council could get millions from Navy for mitigation projects

Sept. 1, 2011: Mitigation program could work for counties

May 10, 2012: Navy selects builders for second explosives handling wharf

May 18, 2012: Second explosives handling wharf gets final approval

June 1, 2012: Hood Canal council OKs program to handle federal restoration money

July 6, 2012: New mitigation program approved for Hood Canal

July 18, 2012: Governor praises Hood Canal mitigation program

Documents related to the in-lieu-fee program can be found on the website of the Hood Canal Coordinating Council.

A story related to mitigation at the proposed Bangor wharf involves compensation to area tribes for the loss of certain treaty-protected fish and shellfish resources. The story, “Navy to pay $9 million to tribes in mitigation for wharf project,” has generated considerable reader comments (134), mainly about tribal rights.


Governor switches head of Puget Sound Partnership

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

I was reading my email Friday when a press release from the governor landed in my in-box.

It began, “Gov. Chris Gregoire today appointed retired Army Corps of Engineers Col. Anthony Wright to lead the Puget Sound Partnership.”

That’s strange, I thought. What happened to Gerry O’Keefe, who had served in the ranks of the partnership before being named interim director and then permanent director just 16 months ago.

What could O’Keefe have done to get fired so suddenly? There was no mention of O’Keefe until the last paragraph of the press release, where the governor stated:

“I thank Gerry O’Keefe for his work over the past year to lead this agency. He has thrown his heart and soul into the work of the partnership, and I wish him well.”

Before I wrote my story, I interviewed numerous people. As far as I could tell, O’Keefe’s departure came as a complete surprise to nearly all the staff at the partnership, to members of the Ecosystem Coordination Board and to others close to the agency.

The press release still leaves me wondering a bit, but I can thank Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the Puget Sound Leadership Council, for speaking candidly to me about what happened. To summarize, Martha said the governor wanted a higher profile person in the post, someone who could have an impact with the Legislature; converse with federal, state and local entities; and connect with the public. Clearly, the governor would like the Puget Sound Partnership (“her baby,” Martha said) to survive and hopefully to thrive as a new governor comes on next year.

You can read Martha’s comments to me in the story I wrote for yesterday’s Kitsap Sun. Martha also prepared a written message for the Puget Sound Partnership’s website, recognizing O’Keefe’s contributions in more detail than the governor.

I could not reach O’Keefe Friday, so I can’t report how he’s taking the news, but Martha and others have told me that he is likely to take a job with the Washington Department of Ecology. No doubt the position will be less stressful.

As for Wright, everyone I have interviewed is impressed with his success as district engineer and commander for the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers. “I like him,” is a direct quote from several people.

I have never been formally introduced to Col. Wright, but I do recall his testimony before the Puget Sound Leadership Council about a year ago, when he told council members they need to get some “courage” in dealing with land-use issues, such as development along the shoreline. Of course, he realized that much shoreline development falls under the purview of cities and counties, but it is the job of the Puget Sound Partnership to push local governments to do the right thing for Puget Sound.

When I reached Tony Friday, he began with a few straight-laced comments, such as, “I am glad to join the team” and “Puget Sound has lots of big challenges.”

But when I reminded him of some of his more outspoken comments, he became a quotable figure, perhaps foreshadowing how he will communicate about Puget Sound — something many people agree needs to be brought to a new level. From my story:

“I’ve been told that I’m outspoken. It is time for some plain talk, because the sound has serious problems. Some people don’t think it does. Some people want to rearrange the deck chairs. That’s not my style…

“Some things are really challenging. Sometimes you have to embrace the porcupine.”

He also told me that, as an Army officer, he has tried to be apolitical, which could help him work across party lines on restoring Puget Sound and managing the partnership.

“I think the organization is important and has a really key role…,” he told me. “It will be a lot of fun.”

I’m glad he is bringing that kind of attitude to the Puget Sound Partnership. I’m looking forward to reporting on how Col. Anthony Wright leads the way.


From state post, Jay Manning returns to law practice

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Jay Manning, who resigned in June as Gov. Chris Gregoire’s chief of staff, says he is ready to charge back into work as a private lawyer, after spending the summer hiking and mountain biking throughout the Northwest.

Jay Manning

Manning, 53, a native of Manchester in Kitsap County, returned today to his old law firm, an environmental practice that now bears the name Cascadia Law Group. One thing to know about Jay is that environmental issues have always been a central part of his life.

Jay took some time to talk with me today about his reasons for leaving state government and his hopes for the future.

“I had sort of run out of gas,” he confessed. “Although others disagreed, I thought I was not performing as well as I should be, such as my ability to solve problems.”

He said he was beginning to worry about his financial condition, with a son in college and retirement staring him in the face. It was a factor he mentioned in a going-away e-mail to his staff. “There was nothing dire there,” he told me, “but it was a concern.”

Although it may be a cliché, it seems to me that Jay was also thinking a great deal about his family life. His wife, a teacher, had been doing double-duty: keeping the home fires burning while going to work every day. During Jay’s time in state government, his family time was more limited.

“It was time to put myself back as an active member of the family, and it has been so much fun to do that,” he said. “Since July 15, I have really played outside and hung out with family and friends. I have my energy level back.”

As he traveled about the Northwest, Jay said he has come to appreciate the splendor of this region even more. He now lives in Olympia.

Meanwhile, Manning has considered various jobs, including prospects at environmental law firms. He settled on Cascadia Law Group, which he believes takes a rare approach to environmental disputes.

“Unlike most firms, this one does not let themselves get pigeonholed. In one case, they may be representing regulated business. In another case, it can be an Indian tribe, and in another case an environmental group. I like that they represent different viewpoints.”

Manning’s career path has helped him become a skillful negotiator with an ability to see various sides of a problem. Most issues are not black-and-white, he said. People on all sides have viewpoints that deserve respect.

After graduating from the University of Oregon Law School in 1983, Manning joined the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, where he and seven other lawyers represented the Department of Ecology.

When Chris Gregoire became Ecology director in 1987, Manning became chief negotiator during three years of tough talks with the federal government over Hanford cleanup. For a time, he went into private law practice and served on the board of the Washington Environmental Council.

When Gregoire became governor, she quickly named Manning to head up the Department of Ecology, where he served for more than four years before she asked him to become her chief of staff in October 2009.

Manning was grateful. “But for me, it sucked the energy out, in a way the Ecology job didn’t,” he said. “I knew the chief of staff job was hard, but until you’re sitting in that chair, you don’t know how you’ll react to it.”

Manning says his days as a trial lawyer are probably over. He anticipates working on management and public-policy issues, such as controversies over water resources in Eastern Washington. He said he would not be surprised to find himself lobbying for legislation at some point.

He also discusses how he might help environmental groups, either professionally or as a volunteer.

“I’m excited to work on energy efficiency, restoration of Puget Sound and some really exciting water projects on the east side of the state,” he said.

As Ecology chief, Manning headed up the state’s Climate Action Team, and I was surprised that he didn’t mention that specifically as a concern.

“I am concerned,” he told me, “but I don’t talk about it as a climate issue. It’s about making your home and business more efficient. You make a more comfortable place to live and your heating bill goes down. We talk energy efficiency, and climate is smack dab in the middle of it.”

The need to reduce greenhouse gases is clear, he said, but the term “climate change” divides people in ways that “energy efficiency” does not.

I asked him if “energy efficiency” conveys the appropriate sense of urgency about a problem that has our government tied in knots.

“That’s a good point,” he said. “My background would tend to push me toward a strong regulatory response. But I don’t think that is doable now.”

Does he think he’ll ever venture back into politics?

“I would never say ‘never,’ but I am really going to focus on being successful with this firm Cascadia. I saw up close what it takes to be governor. It is hard, and sometimes it is completely unreasonable. There is a big personal sacrifice to be made. Right now my focus is on this new job.”

Cascadia Law Group’s website describes the practice this way:

“Our clients come to us because we solve problems. We set out first to understand each client’s objectives. We then apply our knowledge of the law, persuasive skills, political acumen, and creative thinking to attain those goals. We have successfully helped our clients resolve many of our region’s most difficult environmental issues.”

I’ve talked before about how Jay’s growing up in Kitsap County shaped his concerns for the environment. Check out previous comments on Waterways from Oct. 5, 2009, and Feb. 17, 2008. I wrote a profile about Manning for the Kitsap Sun in February 2008.


Governor’s rule-suspension order raises questions

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Business and environmental groups have been waiting for the other shoe to drop since Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that she was suspending state rule-making activities. Her declared motive was to provide small businesses “stability and predictability they need to help with our state’s recovery.”

At the time of the announcement on Nov. 17, the governor indicated that her executive order (PDF 14 kb) would not apply across the board. Some regulations would continue to move through the rule-making process. Criteria for exempting rules (PDF 20 kb) from the moratorium were wide enough to slide through nearly any regulation that the governor wishes to pursue.

Regulations may continue through the rule-making process if they are:

  • Required by federal or state law or required to maintain federally delegated or authorized programs;
  • Required by court order;
  • Necessary to manage budget shortfalls, maintain fund solvency, or for revenue generating activities;
  • Necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare or necessary to avoid an immediate threat to the state’s natural resources;
  • Beneficial to or requested or supported by the regulated entities, local governments or small businesses that it affects;
  • The subject of negotiated rule-making or pilot rule-making that involved substantial participation by interested parties before the development of the proposed rule;
  • A permanent rule previously covered by emergency rules; or
  • An expedited rule under RCW 34.05.353 where the proposed rules relate only to internal governmental operations.

Let’s face it. To really understand what this means, we must wait for the list of regulations that will actually be placed on hold for the next year or more. On environmental issues, both business leaders and environmental activists have interpreted Gregoire’s move as a relaxation of her aggressive environmental policies. But how far that will go is yet to be seen. Remember, she said recently that we cannot take a time-out on saving Puget Sound, recession or not. (See Water Ways, Oct. 21)

Each agency must report by the end of January which rules they want to suspend and which they want to keep moving through the process, along with justifications for their decisions.

Almost immediately after Gregoire’s executive order was announced, Washington Department of Ecology posted a list of six rules that will proceed. They are related to greenhouse gas reporting, air pollution sources, Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund, Upper Kittitas groundwater management, and chemicals of concern in children’s toys.

At the end of this blog entry, I’ve listed all the Ecology regulations now moving through the pipeline.

Washington House Republicans credited Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, with coming up with the idea of suspending state regulations. In August, Orcutt sent a letter asking Gregoire to suspend all regulations except for those related to health emergencies and fishing and hunting seasons.
(more…)


Recession pushes and pulls on Puget Sound cleanup

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

In some ways, the recession we are going through has been very good for Puget Sound, at least if we’re talking about ecosystem restoration.

Gov. Chris Gregoire spies an eagle flying over Oakland Bay during Friday’s media tour.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

In an effort to stimulate the economy and create jobs, Congress appropriated lots of money for projects that were ready or nearly ready to be built. The Puget Sound Partnership lists 614 projects with a price tag of $460 million since 2008. An estimated 15,640 jobs were created in the process, according to the PSP.

But the recession also helped another way. It turns out that when restoration and public-works projects were put out to bid, most of them came in well under their original estimates. Contractors apparently needed the work so badly that they were willing to cut their profit margins and compete hard for the available work. That freed up money for additional projects.

On Friday, Gov. Chris Gregoire led a media tour to some of the projects being built with special federal and state appropriations. One was the Belfair sewage treatment plant, designed to remove nitrogen from Hood Canal to address the low-oxygen problem. Her message was that Puget Sound restoration must not be placed on the back burner until the recession is over.
(more…)


Washington state will sue federal government over Hanford

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

UPDATE: See added notes below

Gov. Chris Gregoire has run out of patience in dealing with the federal government, which has not lived up to its agreement to clean up nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Now, the state will battle the federal government in court.

I received a press release from the Governor’s Office moments ago. It contains this quote from Gregoire:

“In Washington state, we have been patient and reasonable in working with the federal agencies at Hanford,” Gregoire said. “Today, our patience has run out. The federal cleanup has been far too slow.

“In the past three years, the situation has gotten much worse. We now face—not years, not decades—but more than a century of delay. The most recent budget proposed by President Bush puts us on pace to empty one tank per year. At that rate, it will take 140 years to empty the worst of the remaining tanks. That’s not only absurd. It’s unconscionable. The people of Washington cannot stand for that, and will not stand for that.”

In 1989, the state and federal government reached agreement on a cleanup schedule that had a chance of preventing dangerous groundwater contamination in the Hanford region, including the Columbia River. The federal government, pleading poverty, has never lived up to the rate of progress promised in that agreement.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Nov. 26

Considering the increasing concern about nuclear waste at Hanford, there has been surprising little reaction to yesterday’s announcement by Gov. Chris Gregoire that this state will sue the federal government. For the moment, I’ll just add a few notes. Please read on:
(more…)


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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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