We are happy to report that, despite dramatic changes in how the legislature conducted business and prioritized policies this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Soundkeeper and our partners and Champions in Olympia were successful in passing several important environmental laws!
Here is the latest update from Olympia as we wind down this year’s legislative session:
1. SB5022 Plastics and Recycling bill: SB5022 passed out of the House on April 7th and the Senate concurrence vote on House amendments took place April 19th, with all key pieces of the policy in tact! As of Monday May 3rd, the bill signing ceremony with the Governor is scheduled for Thursday May 7th, to take place at the Seattle Aquarium, one of our partners on the Plastic Free Washington Coalition. As a reminder, the bill includes:
- A ban on the sale or distribution of expanded polystyrene (also sometimes called Styrofoam) packing peanuts, coolers, and food service products like clamshell containers, plates and cups beginning June 1, 2023,
- A requirement that food businesses only provide single-use utensils, straws, beverage cup lids and condiment packaging upon customer affirmation, and
- A recycled content requirement for plastic bottles, trash bags and personal care products ramping up to 50% post-consumer recycled plastic by 2031, that will help increase the domestic demand for recycled products.
2. SB5141 the HEAL Act: SB5141 passed out of the House on April 10th and the Senator Concurrence vote on House amendments took place April 20th! The bill was delivered to the Governor on April 26th and should be signed into law soon. The HEAL (Healthy Environment for All) Act was an essential goal in our colleagues with the Front and Centered community’s 2021 Legislative Priorities. The new law requires state agencies to apply environmental justice principles and practices in significant actions that may cause environmental harm. HEAL also includes a framework for the state to more equitably distribute funds and environmental benefits. It requires engaging community, strategic planning, and budgeting, in ways that address environmental health disparities and ensure that the communities most impacted by environmental harm get the much-needed investment toward a greener and fairer economy that benefits everyone.
The HEAL Act also establishes an Environmental Justice Council, with majority representation from overburdened communities, to help inform and collaborate with agencies as they incorporate EJ into their processes and practices. The legislation incorporates several recommendations from the state’s Environmental Justice Task Force that resulted from years of organizing and policy development by the community leaders and the work of Front and Centered to ensure accountability to frontline communities in state action on climate and environmental justice. In 2020, the Task Force issued a report with recommendations that were informed by Front and Centered community listening sessions across the state. These recommendations laid the groundwork for the HEAL Act, and reflect the voices of many frontline communities disproportionately impacted by pollution.
3. Puget Sound Nutrient General Permit Grant Program: The final Operating Budget was released April 24, and we are pleased to report that it included $9,000,000 for a grant program to help municipalities implement requirements to control nutrient pollution from our municipal sewage treatment plants! This funding will provide important assistance to utilities implementing new Clean Water Act requirements to control pollution, once the Department of Ecology issues the Nutrient General Permit later this year.
4. Funding to Research Toxic Tire Chemical: This legislative session, Soundkeeper and our partners helped secure full funding for studies of the tire chemical, 6PPD-quinone, which causes Urban Runoff Mortality Syndrome ( URMS) in coho salmon. URMS can kill coho, when exposed to polluted stormwater, in just a few hours. This year, $195,000 was authorized for use by the Department of Ecology to assess the potential hazards of 6PPD (CAS 793-24-8) and other chemicals or chemical classes and breakdown products used as anti-oxidants and/or antiozonants in tires. Ecology will submit a technical memo on this assessment to the Legislature by December 1, 2021. Another $523,000 will enable Ecology to work with WSDOT, the University of Washington Tacoma, and Washington State University Puyallup, to identify priority areas affected by 6PPD or other related chemicals and develop a standard method for lab measurement of 6PPD-quinone. Ecology will submit a report on this work to the Legislature by November 1, 2022.