Legislative update 0205: Pesticide bill passes out of committee

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Monday marked day 23 of the legislative session. So far, 1739 bills have been introduced.

Committees have already begun passing bills out of committee to move them along in the process. The first legislative deadline is Feb. 22, 2019, when all bills must pass out of their respective policy committee to remain alive.

Senate Labor Committee Passes out Bi-Partisan Pesticide Legislation

On Monday, the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee passed out unanimously bi-partisan legislation implementing the recommendations of the pesticide application safety work group. SB 5550 is sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle).  Rep. Tom Dent (R-Moses Lake) is the prime sponsor of the companion bill in the House.

The bill establishes the pesticide application safety committee to explore how state agencies collect and track data; and consider the feasibility and requirements of developing a shared database, including how the Department of Health could use existing tools to better display multiagency data regarding pesticides.

WAWG supports this legislation.

Ecology Proposes Plan For More Spill Over Dams

Last week the State Department of Ecology (Ecology) announced plans to pursue action to address survival of juvenile salmon through increased water spill over the eight Columbia and Snake river hydroelectric dams.

Ecology is responsible for regulating the levels of dissolved gases in the dam water. The temporary change for the 2019-2021 spring spill seasons at the dams would test the potential benefits for fish passage when higher levels of dissolved gases, mainly oxygen and nitrogen, are allowed.

Ecology announced two hearings on the proposal. The first takes place Feb. 13 at the Washington State School for the Blind, Fries Auditorium, 2214 East 13th Street in Vancouver, Wash. The other takes place via webinar on Feb.19.

More information on the proposal can be found on DOE’s blog.

Governor Appoints Lisa Brown as Director of Department of Commerce

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the appointment of Lisa Brown as director of the Washington State Department of Commerce this week. Brown takes over from Brian Bonlender who served in that role for the past six years.

Brown served as chancellor of the Spokane campus of Washington State University. Prior to her work at WSU, Brown served in the Washington State Legislature as a senator for 16 years.

Package of Bills Heard to Protect Southern Resident Orcas

Last week hearings were held on several bills to recover the Southern Resident orcas. Supporting Southern Resident orca recovery efforts is one of the top priorities of Gov. Inslee’s 2019–21 budgets. His operating, capital and transportation budgets for the next biennium include a combined $1.1 billion in investments that will help ensure a thriving and resilient orca population.

The governor-request legislation addresses three key actions to save orcas: restoring and protecting habitat, increasing oil safety and reducing vessel noise and disturbance.

  • Increasing habitat and forage fish. HB 1579and SB 5580would increase habitat for Chinook salmon and other forage fish. Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien) and Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) are the primary sponsors of these bills. Specifically, the bills would give the department more authority over people who apply for HPAs or building permits for projects in and around the water. If the bill passes, the department would have the authority to impose stop work orders, issue civil penalties for each violation found at a project site of up to $10,000 each and obtain warrants to come onto your land anytime they think a violation may be occurring. It also repeals requirements that WDFW issue permits for shoreline armoring.
  • Improving safety of oil transportation. HB 1578and SB 5578deal with improving the safety of oil transportation. Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Bow,) and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) are the primary sponsors of these bills. The bills amend the notice requirements for facilities receiving oil by rail to include the oil type in their advance notice to Ecology, and amend bi-annual pipeline reporting requirements to include information on the gravity and type of crude oil transported.
  • Reducing vessel noise and disturbance. HB 1580and SB 5577would require vessels to stay at least 400 yards away from Southern Resident orcas and report vessels they witness violation of the limit. It would also require vessels to travel under seven knots within one-half nautical mile of the whales. The legislation would create no-go and go-slow zones around the whales to protect them. Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) and Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) are the primary sponsors of these bills.

More information about the Governor’s recovery plans for the orcas can be found here.