OLYMPIA – Could 2017 be the year Washington emerges as the first state to tax emissions of a greenhouse gas? Barring some unusual turn of events as legislators finalize the state budget here, don’t count on it. But that assessment comes with an asterisk. There are signs that business opposition to the idea is softening. Meanwhile, environmentalists and their allies have made it clear that if the Legislature doesn’t act this spring, they’ll bring to issue to voters next year.
A recent report by the Children’s Administration shows how many of the highest-needs foster children in its custody are falling through the cracks. This “placement crisis,” as agency leaders and lawmakers have taken to calling it, has largely been the result of insufficient and unpredictable state budgets. A bill that would have improved funding for the state’s foster care system has died in the Senate.
An expected expansion of Canada’s Kinder-Morgan pipeline could increase the number of oil-carrying vessels in the Salish Sea seven-fold. In preparation for that, Washington Democrats are trying to pass legislation that would improve oil transportation safety, particularly on the water. But it’s an uphill battle and the clock is ticking.
President Trump’s proposed $28 million cut of Puget Sound restoration funding has provoked an outcry. But loss of federal funding is not the only cause for concern. State funding, which pays for a much larger share of those restoration costs, also is facing cuts, leaving the fate of Puget Sound restoration funding up in the air.
The Washington Legislature is considering a bill on whether and how to strengthen one of the state’s oldest natural resource permits and the only one dedicated to protecting fish habitat. But the threat of lawsuits, potential budget cuts, and a decades old jurisdiction debate may prevent it from passing.
Despite the Flint, Michigan lead-poisoning crisis and the fact that Washington state officials detect 10 lead-poisoned kids a week, bills to reduce children’s lead exposure are struggling in the Washington Legislature.
An abruptly canceled meeting, a moonlighting state senator and the nascent Trump administration all had something to do with many environmental and clean-energy priorities becoming casualties before the Washington Legislature could even reach the halfway mark in its 2017 session. Other priorities soldier on, but the road ahead is uphill.
An October Washington Supreme Court decision found that many counties had over-allocated their available water. Now thousands of rural homeowners are stuck in limbo as counties grapple with implementing the decision and turn to the Legislature for help.
As we’ve done for the last two years, InvestigateWest is again crowdfunding to support our 2017 Washington Statehouse Environmental News Project, offering in-depth coverage of the most critical environmental issues facing the Washington Legislature. If you donate today your gift will be doubled or tripled. Unlike Congress, our state legislature is debating environmental policies that may actually become law. Energy and a carbon tax. Toxics.