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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
What is the old saying? “Time flies. . .” It certainly has flown by since the legislative session began Jan. 9. After completing the pomp and circumstance of the first week, with the first day's swearing-in ceremony, the governor's State of the State address and the Republican Response, we got down to serious business with our committee meetings.
In my last email update, I mentioned that I was reappointed to three top House committees. While I'm serving on the House Appropriations and Capital Budget committees, my role as ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee is consuming much of my time. As you'll read below in this update, we have a lengthy agenda to address issues important to our state's environment and climate adaptation.
2023 legislative session: The good and the bad
Since the session began, 1,166 bills have been introduced in the House and 1,020 have been introduced in the Senate. That's 2,186 bills in total in less than a month! Our House Republican team has reviewed what is considered as many of “the good and the bad” bills of the 2023 session to date. You can read that list here.
Washington State Commission on Men and Boys
I was honored to recently host Brookings Institution Senior Fellow and author Richard Reeves. Richard is considered an expert in the challenges facing boys and men. He flew out from Washington, D.C. to help me launch new legislation, House Bill 1270, that would create a new Washington State Commission on Boys and Men. The commission would be tasked to address the well-being of boys, male youth and men across the state.
In a Brookings article, “The case for a Commission on Boys and Men: Will Washington state lead the way?” Reeves writes, “Many boys and men are struggling. There is a strong case of government institutions that focus on the issues that are disproportionately impacting boys and men, and which can be usefully considered through a gender-specific lens. One attractive option is to create Commissions on Boys and Men, at the federal, state and local levels. These would complement the ones that already exist in most states and many cities to work on issues related to women and girls.”
The commission, the first of its kind in the nation, would be a way we could be a leader in areas of education, employment, family life and health for the benefit of our male population. The measure is currently awaiting a hearing in the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee.
I invite you to learn more about this groundbreaking, innovative idea from these links below:
- Read my press release | Dye bill would create a new Washington State Commission on Boys and Men – Jan. 18
- Read the news story | Dye introduces bill to help men and boys – Whitman Gazette – Jan. 26
- Read my guest editorial | An innovative step toward improving the lives of Washington's boys and men – Jan. 20
- Listen to Capitol Report | Creating a commission for boys and men – Jan. 20
- Watch my video report | Rep. Mary Dye introduces Washington State Commission on Boys and Men, interviews Brookings expert Richard Reeves – Jan. 23
Environment: Working for cooler, cleaner waters to preserve salmon
Our state's salmon population is at risk, not because of the Snake River dams as the governor would have you believe, but due to a combination of other serious circumstances. Puget Sound is home to 59 populations of Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. Salmon require clean and cool water to thrive, but many populations are declining, largely due to heated storm water and raw sewage drainage into the Puget Sound.
The problem: Heated storm water and untreated sewage
One of the most serious threats to our salmon population is known as “urban heat island effect.” Urban heat islands occur when cities replace natural land cover with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. This is especially a problem in Seattle, Everett, Tacoma and the cities along the shores of Puget Sound. As you can see from the infographic above, Seattle can be up to 17 degrees hotter in the summer than rural areas. This heats up storm waters that empty into Puget Sound tributaries and directly into the sound, increasing water temperatures and harming salmon habitat.
Another serious risk to our state's salmon population is untreated raw sewage that frequently spills into Puget Sound, as you can see in the photo above. Between 2006 and 2019, as much as 23% of Puget Sound failed to meet oxygen standards mandated by the Clean Water Act. Much of this is attributed to inadequately treated human waste. Dumping this sewage causes a chain reaction that exhausts the water's supply of oxygen, leaving marine creatures essentially breathless.
News story after news story shows that millions of untreated storm water and sewage are being spilled regularly into Puget Sound from wastewater treatment plants that are inadequate to handle the flow volumes.
The solution: Rep. Dye's legislation – Cooling and cleaning the water
I have four bills to address these problems and improve salmon habitat:
- House Bill 1166 – Water quality trading program: This bill is designed after a very successful project in the Tualatin River watershed near Portland. In that project, Clean Water Services, the public utility district that serves more than 536,000 customers in northwest Oregon's Washington County, reduced water temperatures by planting trees to cool treated sewage water (effluent). The program, which involves “temperature trading,” has kept utility rates low, saved more than $100 million in avoided costs, and improved the health of the watershed. To accomplish water quality goals, the PUD issued a watershed-based permit that allowed for “water quality trading.” This is like a water-based cap-and-trade program in which they capped the temperature amounts that could be discharged from their municipal wastewater treatment. Then they used the revenues to fund habitat restoration projects, including planting vegetation and trees that provide shade. Under my bill, a water quality trading program would be established through the Department of Ecology, and it would offer incentives to do what is feasible to make water cooling improvements that would reduce urban heat island effects. A public hearing was held Jan. 16 in the House Environment and Energy Committee.
- House Bill 1190 – Climate funding/Outdoor recreation: This is the latest version of the ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation) bill I introduced during the 2022 session. It would use revenue from the state's Climate Commitment Act (cap and trade program) to invest in expansion of outdoor recreation facilities, address long-term forest health and reduction of wildfire dangers, provide for drought resilience and preparedness, fund flood mitigation and prevention projects, and improve Puget Sound water quality. This bill has been referred to the House Environment and Energy Committee.
- House Bill 1365 – Puget Sound water quality: This legislation moves past the tradition that cities and counties must fund their own sewer and water systems. Instead, the policy directs funding to upgrade the facilities from Climate Commitment Act revenues. The investments are needed to build added capacity to accommodate the rapidly growing population. By investing in desperately-needed sewage treatment upgrades, we can restore water quality to levels that will assist in recovering Puget Sound Spring Chinook populations from the brink of extinction. Removing ammonia and uric acid from sewage would also eliminate a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. These by-products left untreated turn into methane and nitrous oxide in the marine environment. This bill has been referred to the House Environment and Energy Committee.
- House Bill 1381 – Salmon-safe communities: This bill is a different approach to the problems of salmon population declines. It works with a local government's stormwater permitting annual reporting requirements and simply asks municipalities to account for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) five heat island cooling strategies. Instead of mandating solutions, the bill asks cities to begin innovation in several areas, including: green roofs where vegetables can grow, vertical gardening, reflective roof technology, changes in reflectivity on buildings to reduce heat absorption, increases in permeable surfaces to allow natural infiltration of stormwater, and creating more parklike settings with shade trees and vegetation. The bill works with natural human incentives, competition and recognition. Awards will be given as cities innovate in these areas. As salmon populations begin to recover, cities will be awarded the delegation of a “Salmon-safe community.” A public hearing was held Jan. 23 in the House Environment and Energy Committee. We are awaiting committee action on this bill.
Governor seeks to fast-track wind and solar siting; You should have a voice in that process!
It seems Gov. Jay Inslee is determined no one will get in the way of his plan to build large solar and wind energy farms in Eastern Washington. Last March, he vetoed significant sections of a clean energy facility siting measure, House Bill 1812, that would have given rural stakeholders more input and a broader long-term picture in the siting review of wind and solar projects. Sections 19, 20, 21 and 22 that the governor vetoed came from amendments Rep. Mark Klicker and I added to the bill after working in good faith with our Democratic colleagues to ensure rural communities would be able to see what 30 years of siting wind and solar would do to Washington's rural landscape.
Instead, the governor doubled down to pass House Bill 1812, which removed local authorities from determining whether or not to permit construction of these energy farms. The bill gave those decisions to the governor's hand-picked members of the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC). However, just to be sure even EFSEC doesn't get in his way, Gov. Inslee's request legislation this year, House Bill 1216, would establish the Interagency Clean Energy Siting Coordinating Council, staffed under his administration by the Department of Ecology and Department of Commerce. Responsibilities include “to improve the siting and permitting of clean energy projects.” In other words, fast-tracking up to some 700,000 thousand square acres of wind and solar projects to be placed in Eastern Washington — and you won't have a say in that process. During a conference in Egypt, Inslee said, “We've got to make decisions and this will be controversial. We have to confront it. We have to succeed.” House Bill 1216 is his insurance policy to ramrod the solar and wind siting process where he wants them to go.
It's wrong for the governor to use our Eastern Washington lands as the dumping ground for his energy projects to power the Puget Sound area. I am very concerned about the land pollution and energy sprawl his proposals would create in Eastern Washington.
In response to his veto and his work to fast track intermittent energy siting, I recently introduced House Bill 1123, my clean energy siting measure. This bill would ensure there is local input and the ability to see what environmental, social and economic consequences of that massive construction would be to our region. This would provide a more holistic look at energy siting across the state as the governor expedites the implementation of wind and solar construction. This bill would provide balance and ensure we have meaningful consultation with the community and the tribal people who are impacted by these projects.
The governor wields a lot of power. His House Bill 1216 received a public hearing on Jan. 19 and is expected to be passed by the committee. Unfortunately, I'm told there will be no public hearing on my bill. That's disappointing, because I believe you and our other Eastern Washington citizens should have input when it comes to where wind and solar should be located, especially if the governor wants to put it essentially in your backyard.
Listen to my Capitol Report program on this issue.
Visit your state Capitol!
We have one of the most magnificent state Capitol campuses in the nation. I really enjoy meeting with people when they come to visit our Capitol. If you plan to come to the Legislature, please call my office in advance to schedule an appointment. Go here to learn more about visiting the Legislature.
Last week, I met with representatives from the Washington State Farm Bureau, Spokane Conservation District, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, and the Columbia Basin Development League. This week, I'm scheduled to meet with representatives from Central Washington University, the Montessori School of Pullman, and the chambers of commerce from Clarkston and Pullman.
If you'd like to learn more about how you can be involved in the legislative process, go to this webpage.
If you have questions, comments or suggestions about legislation, please feel free to contact my office. You'll find my contact information below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!
432 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7942 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000