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Science, Law & the Environment Emerging Topics in Environmental Law

Washington Introduces First Legislation to Address Ocean Acidification

Posted in Clean Water Act, Climate Change, Emerging Policy, Ocean Acidification, Shellfish Industry, Water Quality

Yesterday, Senators Rankin, Litzow, Shin and Kline introduced SB 5547 a bill acting on the recommendations of Governor Gregoire’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification. The bill was referred to the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. We’ll see if it makes it out of that committee and comes up for a vote.

In a nutshell, the bill proposes to:

1) Create the “Washington Marine Resources Protection Council” within the Office of the Governor. This council would be composed of agency and stakeholder representatives and would be responsible for coordinating mitigation measures to mitigate the impacts of ocean acidification and would also be responsible for advancing the State’s resources policies regionally and nationally. Part of the coordination of agency efforts includes a directive to agencies to use their existing authorities to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel.

2) The Council would be tasked with working with Ecology to review state surface water quality standards to determine if new numeric standards for pollutants or parameters associated with ocean acidification should be promulgated. This in itself could have broad ranging impacts because it likely means regulation of local inputs into Washington’s marine waters that may be contributing to the acidification issue.

3) Related to the water quality standard directive, the bill would extend urban governmental services (sewer systems) where doing so would reduce “acidifying runoff” to marine waters. As I’ve discussed in the past, it is thought that ocean acidification is antagonized by local inputs from septic systems in places like Puget Sound, although the relative importance of local sources is not well quantified. I imagine this directive to extend sewer systems will meet some resistance from anti-growth types, and I also wonder where the money will come from for these service extensions.

I’ll update here if the bill progresses to a vote, and the bill’s progress can be tracked here as well.