“Every important change in our society, for the good, at least, has taken place because of popular pressure — pressure from below, from the great mass of people.” –Edward Abbey.
Our culture shames “lobbying” and law-making because corporate interests and polluters stoke cynicism around the practice. But who does this benefit? The same forces work to weaken legal protections for our most valuable shared resource: clean and abundant water. “Lobbying” is as simple as having a chat with your elected officials to ensure they know what you care about. We think it’s time to put lobbying back into the hands of the people.
There are four clean and abundant water bills that could become law in Washington state this year. These laws would protect riparian habitat by requiring green corridors; help transform our waste system to improve recycling and stop plastic pollution; ensure much-needed funding for our municipal sewage treatment plants; and help protect kelp beds.
What bills are we advocating in support of?
The Governor’s Salmon Package: Currently low stream flows, high water temperatures, and contaminated water are limiting the efforts to restore endangered and threatened salmon in Washington’s waters. Any efforts to restore salmon will be less effective without addressing these water issues. Salmon need clean, cool, and abundant water to thrive in Washington’s waters so please support these items in the Governor’s Budgets.
The RENEW Act (SB 5697): Globally, 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the marine environment every year, devastating the world’s oceans, ecosystems, and communities. The RENEW Act has many provisions. Some of these include: establishing an extended producer responsibility system that makes packaging producers responsible for the full life cycle of their products; requiring that 100% of the packaging and paper products made or sold into Washington is reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2031; and ensuring all Washingtonians have access to recycling.
Updating Outdated Sewage Treatment Plant Permit Fees (SB 5585): The Department of Ecology develops wastewater discharge permits to control pollution pursuant to the Clean Water Act and state law. WA RCW § 90.48.465 includes a fee cap for municipal sewage treatment plant permits. Fees fund the administration of the permits. Over 200 municipal wastewater permits in the state have expired and their review is backlogged. Due to population growth, wastewater treatment facilities in the Puget Sound are exceeding their permit limits and polluting. The Department is currently experiencing a $2 million gap each year: lifting the current statutory fee cap will allow Ecology to increase fees to cover the cost of the program, address the backlog of permits, and help better control pollution coming from sewage treatment plants state-wide.
Protecting Kelp Beds: (SB 5619): Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows support entire food webs, provide habitat for a vast array of marine life (including orcas and endangered salmon), play an important role in climate mitigation and adaptation, and have profound cultural value for Indigenous peoples and Tribal Nations throughout the Salish Sea region. This bill would require the Department of Natural Resources to establish a kelp forest and eelgrass meadow conservation plan, with a goal to conserve and restore at least 10,000 acres by 2040.
Resources to help you participate during the legislative session:
RE Sources and North Sound Baykeeper, Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT), Spokane Riverkeeper, Twin Harbors Waterkeeper, and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance partnered to organize Clean & Abundant Waters Lobby Week.