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In brief: Bill banning phosphorus in lawn fertilizers advances

OLYMPIA – The Senate approved a ban on phosphorus in lawn fertilizers, but with changes that will send the bill back to the House for another vote.

Among the changes: House Bill 1489 no longer exempts commercial organic fertilizers that contain phosphorus, and, because of disputed research, it no longer has a broad statement about problems the chemical can cause.

It still allows phosphorous fertilizers to be used to get lawns started or to restore damaged lawns, and it still aims to discourage residential users from putting the chemical on healthy lawns to combat runoff into lakes and streams.

The bill is opposed by farm groups but supported by some cities, including Spokane, and other entities that discharge into the Spokane River as a way to reduce phosphorus in the river and Lake Spokane. Phosphorus is thought to contribute to algae problems.

Among companies backing the ban is the Inland Empire Paper Co., which has the same corporate parent as The Spokesman-Review.

The bill passed 32-16. Among Spokane-area senators, Mike Baumgartner, R, and Lisa Brown, D, voted yes. Republicans Jeff Baxter, Bob Morton and Mark Schoesler voted no.

Jim Camden

Cantwell asks FTC to probe gas prices

The quick rise in gasoline prices should be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for possible market manipulation, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said Friday.

The price of gas jumped 40 cents a gallon in the past month in Washington, Cantwell said. Oil speculators may be profiting from the run-up because of conditions in the Middle East, but higher prices at the pump are hurting families, businesses, transit systems and trucking operations.

In 2007, Congress passed a law sponsored by Cantwell that gives the FTC the authority to investigate manipulation of the oil markets. On Friday, Cantwell and four other senators sent the FTC a letter noting the price of oil has fluctuated rapidly even though supply has remained relatively constant and urging the commission to “aggressively use all its authority to make sure people are paying a fair price” for gasoline.

Jim Camden


Top stories in Spokane

Freeman students march in unity to honor memory of slain classmate Sam Strahan

UPDATED: 9:38 p.m.

Drenched in sunshine and a sharp spring wind, more than 70 students marched Friday out of Freeman High School behind a “Freeman Strong” banner to the same football field where they sheltered in fear last September following the shooting that killed 15-year-old Sam Strahan and injured three girls.