The Washington State Legislature will convene January 8 through March 8. Every year, we identify legislative changes that would help us better fulfill our mission of protecting and restoring Washington's environment. We work with legislators and the Governor to create and support bills during the legislative session to bring about those changes. This is called our agency request legislation.
Underground storage tank program reauthorization
What the bill does: The Underground Storage Tank (UST) program is set to expire on July 1, 2019, and the authorizing law is set to be repealed on July 1, 2020. The proposed legislation would simply extend the UST program expiration date to July 1, 2029, and would not alter existing authorities or rules.
Why it's important: If Washington’s program is not reauthorized, UST owners and operators would be subject to federal (not state) regulations, and the Environmental Protection Agency's (not Ecology’s) inspections and enforcement. While the federal program is similar, Washington's program is more responsive to local needs and concerns, and emphasizes education and assistance over punitive financial penalties to achieve compliance goals.
Wastewater treatment plant operator certification fees
What the bill does: This proposed legislation would eliminate the current statutory fee and replace it with a modern fee system that will be dynamic to changes over time. This new fee system will fully fund the program.
Why it's important: The current Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Certification fee is set in statute at a fixed rate. This rate does not reflect the current increases in cost of living, program operation costs and inflation that have taken place over the past 31 years.
What the bill does: This proposed legislation would delay the existing ban on copper-based antifouling boat paints intended for recreational vessels and direct Ecology to conduct additional research on the full range of antifouling paints and biocides.
Why it's important: Copper-based antifouling paints are a significant source of copper pollution in Washington’s marinas and these paints were due to be phased out by 2020. If copper paint is banned, however, boaters will look to products that use a range of alternative biocides as the active ingredient. Some of these biocides could cause more environmental damage than copper, threatening water quality and damaging Washington’s environment.
Strengthening oil transportation safety
What the bill does: This proposal fills a critical funding gap that currently places our spill prevention and preparedness work at risk. It applies the barrel tax to pipelines that carry oil, which are currently not taxed for the spill risk they pose, and increases the barrel rate from 4 cents to 6 cents per barrel for all modes of oil transportation, including vessel, rail, and pipeline. The proposal increases response preparedness by adding a focus to oil spill contingency planning and inspections for situations when oils may sink in water. The bill also directs Ecology to compile data and studies related to vessel traffic risk in the north Puget Sound and report back to the Legislature, and convene a transboundary marine safety forum with British Columbia and Canada to focus on reducing oil spill risks in shared waters. The proposal also includes work to explore how Washington and Canada might fund an emergency response tug.
Why it's important: The Department of Ecology needs approximately $1.8 million in additional revenue this biennium to maintain its current level of oil spill prevention and preparedness work. The shortfall increases by $3.2 million to $5 million in the 2019-21 biennium if there is no revenue solution in 2018. Oil spill risks are evolving in Washington – there is new knowledge and science about risks caused by oils that may sink, and we have growing risk concerns about vessel traffic.