Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to Watching Our Water Ways

Posts Tagged ‘Jay Inslee’

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)


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.”


Congressional principles offered to address global warming

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, working with U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have managed to get 149 of their fellow House members to sign onto a set up principles to guide Congress on a quest to reduce global warming.

All 152 members of Congress signed a four-page letter (PDF 592 kb) (not including six pages of signatures) sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The letter outlines and elaborates on four principles.

“Acting in accordance with these principles is critical to achieving a fair and effective bill that will avoid the most dangerous global warming and assist those harmed by the warming that is unavoidable, while strengthening our economy,” the letter states.

The four principles:

  1. Reduce emissions to avoid dangerous global warming;
  2. Transition America to a clean energy economy;
  3. Recognize and minimize any economic impacts from global warming legislation; and
  4. Aid communities and ecosystems vulnerable to harm from global warming.

Other members of the Washington delegation who signed the letter are Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks, Jim McDermott and Brian Baird.


Energy issues are heating up in Congress

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Get ready for a furious congressional debate over energy for the next three weeks. Democrats appear ready to give in to the drill-drill-drill mentality, but only on the condition that clean energy be part of the picture.

One idea is to drop the federal moratorium on drilling off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in exchange for revoking subsidies to oil companies and shifting those dollars into research and development of solar and wind power.

Zachary Coile, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, calls the political posturing “a chess match over energy with high stakes for both the November elections and the nation’s energy future.”

He writes in today’s editions:

Kevin Book, a senior energy policy analyst at FBR Capital Markets, said he’s betting the only energy legislation that’s likely to pass is an extension of the tax credits for wind and solar, which expire at the end of the year and are popular with both parties.

“The Republicans could still potentially strike a deal, but it’s not clear whether the Democrats have any incentive,” Book said. “They can paint Republicans as objecting to cutting a deal – particularly as all the political analysis suggests they are going to come back next year with the upper hand” by picking up seats in the House and Senate in November.

Two members of Washington’s congressional delegation — U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell — have thrust themselves into the middle of this debate. Inslee, who wrote a book on the clean-energy revolution, has complained about the stranglehold that oil companies have on the Bush administration. (Watch video on his site.) Cantwell has spent a lot of time looking into possible market manipulations that may have led to artificial spikes in gasoline prices earlier this year.

On Thursday, an official with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is expected to testify before Congress, according to David Ivanovich of the Houston Chronicle.

“If the agency were to uncover real evidence of market manipulation, that could spark its own congressional stampede,” said Ivanovich, also quoting David Book.


Learning the ins and outs of oil speculation

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

I recently asked readers of Watching Our Water Ways to refer me to books or magazine articles that would help me understand oil speculation. While I don’t want this blog to turn into “watching our oil ways,” I became interested in oil speculation while writing a story about offshore drilling and have been interested ever since.

The subject of oil speculation was brought out of the closet by Congress, and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee told me that he became convinced during recent hearings that speculation is a major force driving up the price of oil. It appears a growing number of people agree with this assessment.

A lot of my questions about markets were answered last week in a press packet released in conjunction with a new campaign by the Air Transport Association, which wants to get oil speculation under control.

Check out:

The news release by the ATA,

A new Web site, Stop Oil Speculation, Now,

The press packet (PDF 684 kb), which includes loads of questions and answers, lists of officials and companies involved in the campaign, quotes from outside experts and congressional testimony,

And the video of the press conference announcing the campaign.

The organization, of course, is speaking from a position of self interest, but some airline officials are saying officials in the Bush administration don’t seem to understand how markets work and how speculation is driving up the price of oil.

The industry group is calling for what Inslee, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington and other lawmakers have said are needed restrictions on the commodities and futures markets. Unless you know a lot more about commodities than I did before getting into this issue, you may find that information in the press packet is a lot of help. Here are the basic actions being requested:

(more…)


Available on Kindle

Subscribe2

Follow WaterWatching on Twitter

Food for thought

"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

Archives

Categories