Puget Soundkeeper is excited to support HB 2070, the CURB (CUmulative Risk Burden) Pollution Act.

This bill is brought by Front and Centered. It’s part of the organization’s 2024 Just Transition Agenda, focusing on reducing pollution in at-risk and overburdened communities. As Front and Centered reminds us, Washington has budget obligations that mandate funding for our frontline communities. The CURB Act would integrate environmental justice considerations into certain project decisions.

Cumulative Burden Framework

What exactly does “cumulative risk burden” mean? You’ve likely heard about the legacy of toxic pollution in the Lower Duwamish Waterway. This pollution arrived from a variety of sources and built up over more than 100 years of industrial impact. The pollution accumulates—in the soil, in the air, in wildlife—until it weighs upon people and the environment like a heavy burden.

This burden looks like fish and shellfish that are toxic to eat. Or, maybe it’s high rates of asthma and shorter lifespans in South Park as compared to wealthier Seattle neighborhoods. If people live in Duwamish Valley neighborhoods, by choice or necessity, they are taking on a disproportionately high risk to their health and wellbeing.

The cumulative burden framework questions who bears an unfair share of harm, and targets the causes of that harm. Contrast this against more familiar environmental regulatory frameworks, which determine “acceptable” levels of risk or harm, and the need for a cumulative burden framework becomes clear.

What Does The CURB Act Do?

The CURB Act will put four important policies and best practices in place to address the cumulative impact of pollution:

  • Requires additional monitoring for pollutants that affect public health but currently go unaddressed
  • Specifies which communities have been disproportionately harmed, and which protections they should receive
  • Directs the Washington State Department of Ecology to deny new permit applications that would add cumulative pollution
  • Directs Ecology to work with those applicants to reduce pollution over time
  • Elevates the voices of frontline community participation in the permit evaluations process

Environmental Justice in Washington

Washington passed the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act in 2021. This law essentially embeds environmental justice into state agency budgets, plans, and policies by requiring agencies to prepare environmental justice assessments. They are directed to undertake “cumulative impact analysis” and then encorporate these analyses in their assessments.

The CURB Act will take the HEAL Act one step further, requiring environmental justice be applied in pollution permiting. Front and Centered reminds us that current permit processes (like Washington’s stormwater permit processes) don’t have to consider our region’s history of environmental racism, and the resulting cumulative health risk and burden.

Support environmental justice in Washington by signing in PRO on the CURB Act, today! You can support this bill in three easy steps:

  1. Click the button below
  2. Mark your position as “PRO”
  3. Fill out your contact information
  4. Click “Submit Registration”