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About Us

Ecology's 2016 Legislative and budget outcomes

The 2016 Washington legislative session began January 11 and ended March 10. It was followed immediately by a 30-day special session.

Every year, Ecology identifies 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.

In 2016, we requested the passage of two bills — one passed and one failed. Also, House Bill 1130, an agency request bill from 2015 that failed last year, was reintroduced and passed in 2016.

In addition to our agency request legislation, we supported the passage of House Bill 2445, which deals with dangerous chemicals used as flame retardants. That bill passed.

We also supported a supplemental budget request to help address declining revenue for toxic cleanup and prevention projects.

You can find more details about each of these below.

Supplemental budget request:

MTCA Funding Challenges

The issue: The Model Toxics Control Act, or MTCA, is the state’s law that drives the prevention and cleanup of toxic pollution in Washington. The act set standards for cleanups, and established the Hazardous Substances Tax to pay for cleanup projects and prevention work. Because the majority of Hazardous Substances Tax revenue is linked to petroleum products, recent low crude oil prices have led to significant challenges in funding the programs and projects MTCA is responsible for.

How we're addressing the problem:

The Governor and the Legislature have approved 2016 supplemental operating and capital budgets that partially address these revenue challenges during what’s left of the 2015-17 budget cycle

The budgets will still delay funding for some programs and projects for the near future. The agency is working with stakeholders whose projects are impacted by the continuing revenue shortfall. Ecology is also taking cost-saving actions to manage the issue while ensuring that essential work to manage and prevent toxic pollution carries on.

Legislators also directed the Office of Financial Management, with help from Ecology and others, to study and recommend possible longer-term solutions to MTCA revenue issues. Those recommendations are due to the Legislature by Nov. 1, 2016.

Agency request legislation:

HB 2309: Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) 30-Year Term - Passed

What the bill does: This bill will allow communities to take up to 30 years to pay back loans used for wastewater treatment facilities. Prior to this bill, loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) had to be paid back in no more than 20 years.

Why it's important: Some communities struggle to pay for costly but necessary wastewater projects. Allowing an extra 10 years to repay loans from the revolving fund makes projects more affordable and aligns this funding program with federal requirements. Funded and upgraded wastewater treatment facilities mean less water pollution and a healthier Washington.

HB 1130: Water Power License Fees – Passed

This bill was introduced at the request of Ecology in 2015 but did not pass that year. It was reintroduced and passed in 2016.

What the bill does:

  • Extends a fee paid by water power development facilities that are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 2017 to June 30, 2023.
  • Establishes certain administrative requirements related to the hydropower project licensing activities of the Department of Ecology and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, including requiring the departments to hold an annual meeting and develop an annual work plan.
  • Requires Ecology to include detailed information about hydropower licensing program expenditures in its biennial report to the Legislature.

Why it's important:

Moving out the expiration of the fees helps important work continue for salmon survival, fish passage, in-stream flow, and habitat improvement projects. The advantage of a consistent fee is that the utilities can count on the fee in their budgets, and take advantage of assistance from agency staff as it is needed.

HB 2486: Efficiency and Effectiveness of Ecology Statutes - Did not pass

What the bill would have done: This bill would have updated and modernized sections of 10 environmental laws.

Other legislation important to Ecology:

HB 2454: Restricting toxic flame retardant chemicals in consumer products — Passed

What the bill does:

  • Bans the manufacture and use of five flame retardant chemicals in children’s products and residential upholstered furniture that have been identified as Chemicals of High Concern to Children.
  • Directs Ecology and the Washington State Department of Health to evaluate six additional flame retardant chemicals identified as potential concerns in an Ecology report.

Why it's important: Research has shown some flame retardant chemicals added to consumer products may affect child development and cause other health effects. Washington banned the family of chemicals known as PBDEs in 2007, which led to a national agreement to phase out these chemicals. However, research has shown that manufacturers may be substituting other flame retardants with their own toxic risks.

Governmental Relations Contacts:

Denise Clifford
Director of Governmental Relations

Vickie Van Ness
Legislative Coordinator