Story update: Inslee gets involved in water-quality rule changes
June 10, 2013
Gov. Jay Inslee is wading into the controversy on state water-pollution regulations that InvestigateWest first reported earlier this spring.
In a letter to the state Ecology Department (embedded below), Inslee announced his intention to organize an informal group of advisers from local governments, Indian tribes and businesses. Environmental groups, notably, are not mentioned. The process is to kick off this month, and Inslee told Ecology Director Maia Bellon that by late this year he will “provide you with guidance” that will allow new rules to be proposed in early 2014.
At issue are the state’s decades-old and critics say badly flawed assumptions about how much fish Washingtonians are eating. The way the state’s pollution rules are written, the more fish people are assumed to eat, the cleaner local waterways must be kept, and the harder it is for businesses to comply with the law.
Ecology set out to update the rules under Inslee’s predecessor, Gov. Christine Gregoire, but ultimately postponed the changes last June after Gregoire met with a key Boeing executive and a few days later with then-Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant.
Inslee’s letter to Bellon, released late on Friday, calls for the agency to help educate Inslee’s advisory group, “including real-world scenarios illustrating how new criteria would be applied and how new implementation and compliance tools would work in the permitting context.” Ecology officials have previously said the “implementation and compliance tools” could include giving businesses up to 40 years to cut pollution levels to the amount that presumably would be required once accurate fish-consumption rates are in place.
It remains to be seen whether Indian tribes will agree to participate. Tribal interests and nearly all environmental groups – with the exception of Portland-based Northwest Environmental Advocates – have been boycotting the two-year Ecology “stakeholder process” set in motion by last summer’s decision.
Tribes instead took their case to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had repeatedly warned Ecology in the past that the current estimate of fish consumption is unrealistically low. The Indian tribes cited treaties that guarantee them the right to fish in Washington waters – rights they say are abridged if the fish is not safe enough to eat on a regular basis.
The controversy over fish consumption rates was not widely known to the general public prior to InvestigateWest’s reporting, which prompted news coverage and editorials across the state. Inslee’s personal involvement suggests that the issue is now a priority for the administration.
Unsafe for Consumption
by Robert McClure
by Robert McClure
by Olivia Henry
by InvestigateWest Staff
by Jason Alcorn
InvestigateWest would like to thank its readers, without whose support this story would not have been told. Become a member today.
Also Published By:
Environment | November 2014
It will take hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up the Duwamish River. But how clean is clean? And who decides?
Robert McClure looks at how lobbyists and community groups have squared off over the health of the waterway and its neighborhoods.
Photo: Paul Joseph Brown/ecosystemphoto.com
Trafficking | October 2014
Authorities say organized gangs increasingly are trafficking children for sex in the Northwest, and even cooperating with each other to stymie police.
Meanwhile in Portland, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has become the third most prolific nationally in securing indictments for trafficking children and adults for sex.
Photo: Oregon DOT/Flickr
Minimum Wage | August 2014
"Everyone is aware that passing a $15 an hour minimum wage was historic," an advisor to Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council told InvestigateWest. "But if we cannot enforce that, we haven't accomplished much."
Based on a review of more than 20,000 wage theft complaints, hundreds of pages of reports and more than a dozen interviews, "Stolen Wages" shines a light on the dark world of pay violations in Seattle and across Washington.
Infrastructure | May 2014
Party politics have thwarted bridge safety improvements, and an investigation drags on to decide how the trucking company, its escort car and the state may share blame. Yet a new mapping tool for truckers may offer hope, Jason Alcorn reports.
Infrastructure | May 2014
Portable, modular or relocatable classrooms — whatever you call them — are a necessity for cash-strapped schools.
But many portables become permanent fixtures, in place for decades at a time. Costly and insufficient, these aging structures burden the grid, frustrate teachers and administrators and compromise student health.
Environment | April 2014
Energizing our world with wood sounds so natural. And it has quickly become a multibillion-dollar industry as governments including British Columbia and the European Union turn to biomass to replace dirty old coal. Yet what we found when we dug into the coal-vs.-wood debate will surprise you.
Public Health | April 2014
We update our 2013 series on Washington’s estimated fish consumption rate with news of a private meeting where Gov. Jay Inslee and his advisers wrestled with how much to protect business versus consumers when it comes to water pollution in the fish we eat.
Consumer Safety | April 2014
Manufacturers put a warning sticker on every ATV sold: The vehicles aren't meant for roads. But a push to allow just that is rolling out across the country. Washington and three other states passed new laws in 2013, among 22 states to allow or expand ATV access to roads since 2004.
Wealth & Poverty | December 2013
It's the unexpected catch in catch-share programs: A federal program that was supposed to help preserve and enhance the fishing economy in Kake, Alaska, has instead helped cause a severe decline. Meanwhile, 50 miles southeast, the town of Petersburg is booming.
The third part in our trilogy of fish stories examines the consequences catch-share policy where it was born, even as the model has been established in 14 other U.S. fisheries, encompassing dozens of species ranging from New England scallops to Pacific sole.
Public Health | September 2013
Of the roughly 50,000 kids who will attend Seattle schools this fall, nearly 2,000 will hit the books in classrooms within 500 feet of Interstate 5, InvestigateWest has found. This despite a body of evidence dating back decades that highway air pollution can cause lifelong respiratory problems and asthma attacks and boost school absenteeism.
From Seattle to Spokane, what can be done to make sure schools are healthy places for kids?
Photo: John Marshall JHS, 1963. SPSA 108-97.