Toxics cleanup bill aimed at Bellingham waterfront gets environmentally friendly fix

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 4, 2013 

In an unexpected vote, the state Senate approved changes to a new toxics cleanup bill that addressed the concerns of environmentalists.

The so-called "trailer bill," which modified the Model Toxics Control Act reform bill that passed on June 13, received a 34-13 vote in the Senate on June 28.

The amending bill was delivered to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who sponsored the original bill, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, July 3. He had said on June 21 that introducing a new bill that late would be "very difficult" and would require the Senate to act without giving the usual public notice.

Democrats introduced the trailer bill in the House on June 23 to adjust language that they noticed in the original bill after it had been signed by the governor. Democrats wanted the law to limit the types of stormwater projects that qualify for cleanup funds, and to restrict polluting companies' access to the money.

Environmentalists criticized the first version of the bill. Clifford Traisman, who lobbies on behalf of Washington Conservation Voters and other environmental groups, has said the original bill would "make funding available to liable private parties in a way never seen before."

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, the leading Democrat on the legislation, said he appreciated working with Ericksen to perfect the bill.

"The goal all along is that government entities are able to use this fund," especially on abandoned properties such as the Georgia-Pacific site on Bellingham's waterfront, Ranker said. "There are very limited, very scrutinized situations where a private party can qualify for this funding, and this bill doesn't change that. We've clarified that with ... the trailer bill."

Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2298.

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