On Friday morning, I boarded a plane in Chicago and by the time I touched down in Seattle, Trump had been sworn into office. We’ve received a number of questions from clients and friends asking us how the regime change will impact environmental law and policy in the Pacific Northwest. The quick answer is one that recognizes that state-level politics (which drives much of the environmental policy in Washington) has not changed in the seismic manner that federal politics have with this election. And, at federal agencies, while we are already seeing leadership changes (for instance, Dennis McLerran is no longer the head of Region 10), the staff of those agencies will not dramatically change—so the people that have made day-to-day decisions across multiple administrations will still be doing so.

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In 2013, the Washington Legislature passed SSB 5296, which amended the Model Toxics Control Act in a number of ways. One of those amendments directed Ecology to adopt “model remedies,” defined as “a set of technologies, procedures, and monitoring protocols identified by [Ecology] for use in routine types of clean-up projects at facilities that have common features and lower risk to human health and the environment.” The intent behind this amendment to MTCA was to streamline and accelerate the selection of remedies at “routine” sites. In theory, the use of a model remedy at such sites would allow a party performing a cleanup to avoid preparation of a feasibility study for the site, which could result in lower costs and faster time frames in remediating some sites (if you are interested, the selection process is outlined at WAC 173-340-360). In addition SSB 5296 authorized Ecology to waive its collection of costs associated with providing opinions on model remedy sites, which could result in a modest cost saving for parties performing cleanups by enrolling in the Voluntary Cleanup Program.

Ecology was given a November 1, 2016 deadline to submit a report to the governor and “appropriate legislative committees” on the status of the development of model remedies, including the number and types of model remedies that Ecology has identified, the number of remedies proposed by “qualified individuals,” and the reasons why Ecology accepted or rejected those proposals. Also, perhaps in an overly ambitious way, SSB 5296 directs Ecology to report on the success of model remedies in accelerating cleanups, in terms of jobs created, acres of land restored, and the number of sites successfully remediated.
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EPA Region 10 just released its Record of Decision (ROD) for the Duwamish River Superfund Site. This is the next step in the cleanup process for the Lower Duwamish River, and documents EPA’s selected remedy for the site. It comes on the heels of EPA’s Proposed Plan for the Duwamish, issued in February 2013.