Legislative priorities

Like other state agencies, we evaluate, prioritize, and propose bills to the Washington Legislature. Environmental issues facing the state — along with our strategic priorities and budget requests — guide our proposed legislation.

We'll keep you up to date on our proposals throughout the 2019 legislative session. Check this page, or follow us on Twitter @ecologywa  and search #waleg to get the latest news on our proposals.
Orca with head out of water in Puget Sound with Mt. Rainer in the background.

Governor proposes bills and funding package to support orca recovery

Gov. Jay Inslee proposed several bills in the state Legislature to save southern resident orcas. He also proposed over $26 million in operating and $300 million in capital investments for our role orca recovery Read the details

Safe oil transportation to protect orcas

We can reduce threats to southern resident killer whales by improving the safety measures of oil transportation. This bill would:

  • Require tug escorts for smaller tank vessels that carry up to 7 million gallons of oil in Rosario Strait and waterways east, matching the current requirements for larger oil tankers.  
  • Call for modeling and rulemaking to determine where else in Puget Sound tug escorts will reduce oil spill risk. 
  • Require Ecology to work collaboratively to study the viability and funding of an emergency response towing vessel to serve high-oil-traffic shipping lanes of Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, and Rosario Strait, similar to the existing Neah Bay emergency response towing vessel. 
Why it matters

Safety gaps exist in our current efforts to protect the Salish Sea from oil spills. A catastrophic oil spill would inflict potentially irreversible damage on the endangered southern resident killer whales and other species, damage commercial fishing, violate tribal treaty rights, and cause severe economic and public health consequences in Washington.

Read our focus sheet on this issue.

Bill language Contact

Sustainable recycling

Contamination in our recycling stream has prompted serious restrictions on what recyclables the People’s Republic of China will import from Washington. This bill would:

  • Create a Recycling Development Center in Ecology. The center would incentivize new companies to process recyclable material and develop new, local markets for those materials.
  • Require local jurisdictions to develop and implement recycling Contamination Reduction and Outreach Plans for their communities, or use the state plan. These plans will be included in their local comprehensive solid waste management plans. 
  • Amend the waste reduction, recycling, and litter control account law to change the distribution of revenue from the litter tax. This funding supports the Recycling Development Center, the development of waste reduction and recycling programs, and education and outreach.   
Why it matters

The once-thriving recyclable commodities market has collapsed because the government of China placed restrictive new rules on recycling imports. And there are not sufficient alternative markets to handle the material China no longer accepts. Commodities such as paper and plastic are piling up or being sent to landfills. Washington’s robust recycling rate — a national leader at about 50 percent — is at risk of buckling.

Read our focus sheet on this issue.

Bill language Contact
Material for recycling coming out of the back of a garbage truck.

Material collected for recycling.

Drought preparedness and response 

Modernizing Washington’s drought statutes is important to effectively prepare for and respond to drought emergencies. This bill would:

  • Create tools and resources that help build long-term drought resiliency among water users and communities throughout the state.
  • Improve the state’s ability to effectively respond to drought in the short term.
  • Codify many of the best practices identified in the updated 2018 Washington State Drought Contingency Plan, which was developed collaboratively between eight state agencies.

Under-watered apple orchard during 2015 drought.

Why it matters

Current statutes limit our ability to effectively prepare for and respond to drought emergencies. With climate forecasts predicting more frequent droughts, it’s critical that we take a more proactive approach to drought preparedness and response. Our proposal will build long-term drought resiliency for our farmers, water suppliers, and the environment while also improving the state’s ability to quickly and effectively respond to drought emergencies. 

Read our focus sheet on this issue.

Bill language Contact

Voluntary cleanup program

With today’s strong real estate market, our capacity to provide reviews of voluntary cleanups under our program has not kept pace with demand. This bill would:

  • Support and enhance our ability to provide timely technical assistance and opinions to owners of contaminated properties so those properties can be redeveloped.
  • Provide expedited reviews of voluntary cleanups to meet compressed schedules of real estate development projects.
  • Waive review costs when cleaned-up properties are redeveloped into affordable housing.
Why it matters

We provide technical assistance and written opinions on the sufficiency of cleanup sites. Demand for these services are high and we've developed a wait list. This has delayed or discouraged many projects. While we’ve taken steps to speed reviews, 150 sites remain on our waiting list.

Read our focus sheet on this issue.

Bill language Contact

Wood stove emissions standards and fee increase

New standards for wood stoves would reduce particulate pollution. Updating the fee would support wood stove education, stove swap-outs, and enforcement programs. This bill would:

  • Increase solid fuel burning device retail fees from $30 to $50, and the current fee adjustment mechanism would be replaced with an annual adjustment using the state fiscal growth factor.
  • Update solid fuel burning device standards to reflect technological advancements and align with the emissions performance for cleaner-burning wood stoves already being manufactured and sold in Washington.
  • Require both new and used wood stoves to meet state standards before installation.
Why it matters

Fine particle pollution from wood home heating poses a significant health threat for millions of Washington residents, especially those with existing heart or lung disease, the elderly, and small children. Washington’s wood stove emission standards have not been updated since 1991 and should be updated to reflect more recent technology and design improvements.

Read our focus sheet on this issue.

Bill language Contact