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Credit card surcharges better addressed by the feds or by the states?

Today's Olympia-based story on efforts to block credit card surcharges in Washington's Legislature elicited some interesting online comments.

The story demonstrates the unexpected position by a conservative legislator (Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane) who argues a credit card surcharge is best left to federal legislation. States rightrs?  Parker isn't of the opinion that the state should step in.

Here is part of that story:

By Tom Sowa

Washington may join 10 other states that now prohibit merchants from adding credit card surcharges to purchases.

The state House of Representatives expects to vote on HB 1870 today and send it to the state Senate.

But even the bill’s House sponsors say they’re uncertain the state Senate will vote on a bill that some state business groups consider unnecessary.

If made into law, the bill prevents Washington merchants from adding a surcharge to any credit or debit card transaction. The bill does not stop merchants from offering discounts for cash-only purchases.

One sponsor, Rep. Cyrus Habib, a Seattle-area Democrat, introduced the bill in response to a recent federal court ruling that allows merchants to add a surcharge of up to 4 percent of a purchase cost.

That surcharge option took effect on Feb. 1, but national consumer and business groups have said few merchants have opted to use it.

Jan Teague, president and CEO of the Washington Retail Association, said her group opposes the bill because there’s no need to make it a state law.

“None of our retailers in Washington impose a surcharge. In fact, those who use MasterCard and Visa are contractually prevented from doing so already,” Teague said.

“So, it makes no sense to try to turn this into law,” she added. “I know of no retailers here who are doing that.”

The new surcharge option took effect based on a preliminary court ruling in a New York lawsuit filed by retailers against the nation’s largest credit card companies.

The ruling said merchants could add surcharges, but they needed to post them at the point of sale and could not charge more than the actual “swipe fee” – the amount a retailer pays the bank for each transaction.

The National Retail Federation says few retailers are adding the charges; it also notes that the court ruling is preliminary and could be reversed when a judge makes a final ruling later this year.

The bill was approved on an 8-7 vote last week in the Business and Financial Services Committee of the state House. Habib and committee chairman Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, were among the sponsors.

Washington state getting more serious about creating a one-stop business portal

Each week during the legislative session, OfficeHours will focus on a single piece of legislation, seeing how it would affect state businesses and considering the bill's chances of going forward.

This week's bill is HB 1757, introduced by a bunch of legislators including Marcus Ricelli, who represents Spokane's Third District.

The companion Senate bill is SB 5718.

It would create a one stop business portal to simplify business interactions with regulatory bodies (like revenue, L&I and Employment Security).

The language of the bill is revealing, at least about the state's foot-dragging effort in this arena.

In 2006 the state legislature adopted a bill requiring the creation of the business portal. "But it has not been developed," the bill's analysis notes.

That same summary says: The bill outlines "high-level technology architecture and implementation steps to achieve a single online place for businesses to accomplish their state business in a way that is consistent and efficient for both business and government."

The bill further requires the office of the chief information officer to provide the economic development committees of the legislature with a plan for establishing  performance  benchmarks  and measuring  the  results of implementing a one-stop integrated system for business interactions with government.

This is a goal that Washington failed to execute so far, but which  Oregon has recently completed.
Here's the Oregon summary of its portal, called Business Xpress.


Gun right backers don’t have to slack on safety

SHOOTING — It's interesting if not disturbing that the discussion over guns has prompted some people among their group of circled wagons to excuse poor gun handling.

See the comments to my post regarding the photo (above) snapped at Friday's gun rights rally in Olympia.

In my experience at the Spokane Gun Club or Spokane Rifle Club, somebody would quickly step forward to correct a person for poor muzzle control. What's wrong with doing same in the media?

This woman does not know where that gun is pointing because it's behind her and out of her control. Bolt is closed. End of point.

This obervation caused some commentors to cast aspersions from their narrowly defined and propagandized vision of the media, whatever "the media" are.

But back to the point: 

Being a gun rights advocate doesn't mean you should slack off on offering reminders and enforcing points of safe gun handling with others around you, whether it's at home, in a hunting situation or at a 2nd Amendment rally. 

Should firearms safety be a requirement for gun owners?

SHOOTING — The Spokesman-Review photo above from Friday's gun rights rally in Olympia shows an appalling lack of muzzle control, with a firearm being carried in an unsafe manner.

That lady would be booted out of my elk camp, or forced to eat my cooking as punishment.

It's a reminder that under our current system, the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms is not backed up by a requirement for responsibility or safety.

I see signs here of a poorly regulated militia.

Whitewater Park doesn’t get extension on $500,000 grant

Bad news for Whitewater Park enthusiasts: The Spokesman reports the project lost its $500,000 grant. From the Spokesman:

In a 6-1 vote, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board agreed with a staff decision in April not to extend the expiring grant. Board members rejected the suggestion that doing so would kill the momentum for the project; instead they said the project should complete an environmental impact statement and obtain needed permits, then return to the board to ask for the grant to be awarded a second time.

Spokane City Parks Director Leroy Eadie said the next step will be to “go back and regroup” and try to find the $75,000 to $80,000 needed for the EIS. It might be possible to pay for that study with another grant obtained by Friends of the Falls.

“This is a little bump in the road. This project’s had a lot of bumps in the road,” Eadie said.

As I've stated before, I've always been exited about the whitewater park and I believed there shoul've been an extension of the grant. It has been a complex process and the slow pace is a result of thoughtful consideration to the environment, wildlife and community. Why kill it now?

Healthy lawns, clean water act becomes law

From the Spokane Riverkeeper: Today, Governor Christine Gregoire signed the “Clean Fertilizers, Healthier Lakes and Rivers” legislation (ESHB 1489) into law.  The legislation manages the sale of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers and provides a commonsense and cost effective approach to making sure that our lakes and rivers are clean.
This legislation was one of the four environmental community priorities for the 2011 legislative session and the first to be signed into law.
When phosphorus in fertilizer washes off of our lawns into lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound, it causes pollution that costs taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars to clean up.  Excess phosphorus in our waterways causes rapid growth of weeds and smelly algae blooms that can harm fish, wildlife and public health.  Lake Spokane/Spokane River, Lake Whatcom, Lake Vancouver, Lake Washington and hundreds of other waterways across our state are polluted from too much phosphorus. 

Complete Streets passes legislature

Washington just made progress in transportation policiy with two bills moving forward that will ensure our roads are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. That is the Complete Streets concept-  to promote streets that are safe and convenient for all users including motor vehicle drivers and passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and people of all abilities.

HB 1071
, which would establish but not fund a grant program for communities adopting Complete Streets ordinances, has passed out of both the House and Senate and now awaits signature from Governor Christine Gregoire. Meanwhile, HB 1700, which would require the state Department of Transportation to provide for all users, increase public participation, and adopt new design guidance that could provide increased flexibility to localities and the state awaits a vote in the Senate Rules Committee. If passed, it would move to the Senate floor for a full vote.

After the jump, enjoy these fun Complete Streets videos. With legos.

$260k to woman strip-searched in jail

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The city of Olympia has agreed to pay $260,000 to a woman strip-searched and zapped with a stun gun in the city jail.

Cynthia Brown's lawyer Edwin Budge calls the agreement "vindication to some degree."

While settling, the city denies liability. Its outside counsel for the case, Donald Law, says the city accomplished its primary goal, which was to "reach a fair settlement with Cynthia Brown."

Brown had sued the city in September, alleging her civil rights were violated and that the strip search was illegal.

The Olympian says public documents show Brown was arrested and taken to the jail on Aug. 19, 2008, on a misdemeanor trespassing accusation, which was later dismissed. Records show Brown refused an order to strip to her underwear without a female officer present, then was shot with a Taser. She then removed her clothes.

The newspaper says the city changed jail booking procedures related to strip searches as a result of the case.

Friday Quote: Rep. Andy Billig and Spokane Riverkeeper on “Green Lawns, Clean Water” bill passing Senate today

It's time to party: HB1489 Green Lawns, Clean Water, the phosphorous fertilizer bill passed the Senate today, 32-16. Having passed the House last month it will now be forwarded onto the Governor for signature.

First, from 3rd District Rep. Andy Billig, who sponsored the bill: Today the Senate approved HB 1489, my bill limiting phosphorus in lawn fertilizers, which will help make the Spokane River and water-bodies all over the state cleaner and healthier.  The Senate passed HB 1489 with some changes so the bill will be coming  back to the House for a concurrence vote.

A friend of mine who has worked to protect the Spokane River sent me this message just after the bill passed: “I saw the river smile today.”  That comment made me smile and I look forward to getting this bill through the final few steps and enacting it into law.


Friday Quote: Rep. Andy Billig on protecting Washington’s “Evergreen Legacy”

Protecting Washington’s natural resources now and into the future is the aim behind a trio of bills that cleared the House this week.  These bills help reduce pollution in our waterways and place our state ahead of the curve in oil spill response planning.

-HB 1186 incorporates lessons learned from last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico so that a similar disaster doesn’t occur here.  It puts new responsibilities on oil companies for the safe travel of oil tankers through Washington’s waters. 


“Streets are no longer just for cars”

Good news out of Olympia: The two Complete Streets bills are moving along nicely. State Rep. Jim Moeller’s (D-49, Vancouver) “complete streets” bill, which gives cities incentives to pass ordinances  that make city planners consider the needs of pedestrians and bikers when building new streets, passed the house yesterday, 56-41, along straight party lines. Moeller's floor speech nailed it: “We can all agree that our streets should be safe. And that streets are no longer just for cars.”

The second Complete Streets, bill 1700, was introduced late by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. It allows WSDOT to incorporate complete street design standards for all state highways within city, town, and county limits across Washington.

For a little background on the legislation, check the Cascade Blog's "Double Dose Of Complete Streets Medicine," and posted after the jump. (Side jab: Airway Heights must be excited since they passed an ordinance. Let's go Spokane!)

GSI launches new site to gather input on key business issues

Greater Spokane Incorporated, the area's main business advocacy group, has launched a satellite website to gather comments and opinions from area constituents.

It's YourPolicyVoice.org, and it launched in concert with the recent visit by GSI and about 90 business people to  Olympia last week to speak to legislators about Eastern Washington issues.

The goal is to have easier ways for users to submit letters to public officials on key issues. Site users can also use GSI's agenda summaries, legislative data and outlines of relevant public policy topics.

"This site allows our membership and the public to have a strong voice in issues related to them and their business," said Rich Hadley, President and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated. "What goes on in Olympia, and what goes on in D.C. affects every business. Our hope is that this site becomes a valuable resource for everyone."

“Slow down and save lives”

Transportation Advocacy Day is on February 10th and it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to meet in Olympia to learn about legislative issues, meet with your legislators and network with other advocates.

There are some great bills this year that will positively impact transportation choices in our state. HB 1071 is designed to give grants to municipalities that have passed Complete Streets ordinances;  HB 1129 mandates all driver education schools in the state to teach the Washington State Department of Licensing's approved curriculum for safe driving around bicyclists and pedestrians. One of my favorites is HB 1217: “Slow Down, Save Lives.” It provides protection for bicyclists and pedestrians by allowing local jurisdictions to set blanket 20 mph speed limits on non-arterial streets in residential and business districts.  As it stands now, this law is extremely limited - with the exception of school zones.

When Valencia Street in San Francisco lowered the speed limit- granted they also slimmed travel lanes to accommodate other users- merchants reported an increase in sales by 40 percent. To me, it’s an enhancement, making our street network more safe and appealing for residents and visitors. And it’s good for retail and development.

Legislative Session recap: release from Environmental Priorities Coalition

It was a tough session for the Spokane River.

Press Release from Environmental Priorities Coalition
Legislature Delivers Mixed Results for Environment
No Solution for Clean Water, Progress on Budget and Toxics
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Today, the Environmental Priorities Coalition announced the results of its 2010 legislative priorities. In response to the conclusion of the special session, Coalition members expressed both a sense of disappointment and moderate accomplishment.
“The Legislature missed a huge opportunity to make real progress on the environment this session, especially around our clean water priority,” said Kurt Fritts, executive director of Washington Conservation Voters. He continued, “While we credit them for taking action in some areas, they didn’t step up to address the state’s biggest water pollution problem, and now that issue only becomes more urgent next year.”

The Environmental Priorities Coalition chose three priorities for consideration during the 2010 legislative session. Collectively, they aimed to not only address the state’s environmental challenges but also support its economic recovery.
The three priorities were the Working for Clean Water bill (aka Clean Water Act of 2010), Sustain Environmental Protections in the Budget, and the Safe Baby Bottle Act. In addition, the Coalition sought to uphold Initiative 937. The Legislature did not pass the Clean Water Act, and did reinstate funding for several core environmental programs, did pass the Safe Baby Bottle Act, and did not modify I-937.
The Clean Water Act of 2010 proposed a permanent increase in the existing Hazardous Substances Tax. The additional revenue would have raised more than $100 million each year for local stormwater infrastructure projects. The projects would have helped reduce polluted runoff from entering waterways around the state. Current funding for these projects comes in part from local utility bills and property taxes.
“This bill asked polluters to help pay for stormwater cleanup, as individuals like property owners and utility customers already are,” said Mo McBroom, lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council. She continued, “It’s a serious blow to Puget Sound, the Spokane River and the people of Washington that the Legislature passed on a chance to generate new jobs and a long-term solution to the number one water pollution problem in the state.”

Update: Special Legislative Session

Below is a supplement to this afternoon’s Washington state legislative session recap post. This update is courtesy of Environmental Priorities Coalition and Brendon Cechovic of Washington Conservation Voters. 

Update: Special Legislative Session
March 11, 2010

As the campaign director for the Clean Water Act of 2010, I wanted to give you an update on where things stand in Olympia. It appears certain that the legislature is moving into a special session, and there are difficult decisions that still need to be made regarding the state budget, revenue, and job creation.

The Clean Water Act is very much alive, and will be one of the limited items that the legislature will consider during the special session. That credit goes to you. We asked you to make your voice heard, and you responded with an overwhelming push for clean water in Washington. You and I know that we can’t wait any longer to address the biggest water pollution problem in the state - toxic stormwater runoff.

The odds have been stacked against us from the first day of session. Big oil companies have run every play in their book against our proposal to raise the hazardous substance tax for clean water funding. They now realize that we are close to passing the bill, and will stop at nothing to avoid paying their share of pollution clean-up costs.

We’ve rolled with the punches over the past two months, and will need to stay vigilant to see this landmark legislation to the finish. Even in these tough times, we can pass a bill that is a substantial win for clean water, jobs and local economies around the state.

You’ve heard from us a lot these past weeks, especially if your legislator’s support has been on the fence. But we can’t let our guard down now. We’ll be asking you to stand up again for clean water over the coming week, and will keep you informed as we make the final push for the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Priorities Coalition will also be working hard to make sure core environmental protections are sustained in the final state budget. You can always find the most updated information on our coalition’s website at www.environmentalpriorities.org.

Thank you again for your strong support this session.

Brendon Cechovic
Washington Conservation Voters

Eyes on Olympia

The Washington State Legislative Session begins this upcoming Monday, and because of the current economic climate, it’s been said that this session feels a bit like stepping into an abyss - dark and bleak with a lot of unknowns.  So just how deep is the abyss - oh, about $2.6 billion dollars deep (the budget deficit facing the state).  But fear not - our very own Senator Lisa Brown is approaching the session with optimism and hope fueled by none other than Eddie Vedder.  Well, kind of….  You see, every year Senator Brown picks a song for the session.  This year she picked Pearl Jam’s “The Fixer”.  This excites DTE on two levels: one, because we’re Pearl Jam fans, and two, because we’re optimists.  Here’s a sample of the lyrics, and below we have some news bites about the session.
When somethings dark, let me shed a little light on it
When somethings cold, let me put a little fire on it
If somethings old, I wanna put a bit of shine on it
When somethings gone, I wanna fight to get it back again

A few weeks back we introduced you to this years Environmental Priorities, with one of them being to sustain environmental protections in the budget.  And now we’re introducing you with an opportunity to send a loud and clear message that legislators should not balance the budget on the environment, our communities, the backs of working families, our kids, or the most vulnerable.  Futurewise has joined together with organizations from around the state and will deliver thousands of petitions to the capital on Monday calling for a fair, humane, and sensible budget in Washington State.  You can sign that petition by clicking HERE.  Last year the legislature cut $3.6 billion from the state budget for 2009 -2011. These substantial spending reductions have cut into the muscle and bone of our education and healthcare systems, programs that support kids, the elderly and disabled, and projects that clean up toxic waste sites and protect clean air and water.

Just how hard is it to remain optimistic when staring down a $2.6 billion hole?  Many environmentalists around the state are expecting the worst this session, but there may be a proposal with a fighting chance. There is a proposed $1.50 per barrel tax on petroleum products (including gasoline, motor oil, and asphalt, but not jet fuel) that will make its way before legislators this session. The measure, which died in the Washington Senate last year, is being recast as a jobs-stimulus bill this time around.  So just how much are we talking with this tax?  $120 million the People for Puget Sound and its allies in the Environmental Priorities Coalition say.  “$120 million here and $120 million there, and pretty soon you’re into real money,” Daniel Jack Chasan said in paraphrasing Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen in a recent piece on Crosscut.  But not all the money would stay on the westside and for the Puget Sound.  Chasan reports, “Not all the money would go to Puget Sound. Other places have stormwater problems of their own. Prime sponsors of the legislation this session and last have been Spokane Rep. Timm Ormsby, whose constituents worry more about pollution of the Spokane River, and Vancouver Sen. Craig Pridemore, whose constituents worry more about the Columbia.”  We can expect a big fight from the petroleum industry, but you can help.  Write your representatives and tell them the importance of getting our hands on some of these funds for watershed protection and cleanup issues.  Contact Rep Ormsby and thank him for his support and urge him to continue the fight. 

Washington’s Congressional Delegation Report Card

A week ago today, Environment Washington, a state-based, citizen funded environmental advocacy group released its annual scorecard on Washington’s Congressional delegation, documenting their environmental votes over the last year and a half.  In a release by Environment Washington, they applauded Senator’s Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray along with Reps. Jay Inslee, Brian Baird, Rick Larsen, and Norman Dicks for voting for the environment 100% of the time in the past year and a half. 

“These six congressional delegates have consistently voted to put the environment ahead of special interests. In the past year and a half they successfully fought to invest an unprecedented $80 billion in clean energy and to protect more than two million acres of wilderness,” said Heather Shute, environmental advocate at Environment Washington. “These scorecards are an important tool to educate the public about the voting records of their elected officials and to honor public officials like this that have a record of putting the environment first.”

You can view the report from Environment Washington HERE.  And attention Eastern Washington representatives, class is in session - you are being graded.  And as Shute concluded in the release, it’s time to join the above champions and work to strengthen our environmental laws—to stop global warming pollution, move America towards a cleaner energy future, and clean up America’s most treasured waterways.

Not really a good-bye, just a new address

For many years, the last leg of my commute to work included a walk across the Monroe Street Bridge into downtown, reminding me of some things I like best about Spokane.

The river below, which rushes so fast in spring the mist rises above the bridge, and the banks below that are green in the summer and golden in the fall. Riverfront Park is on the left, and Peaceful Valley the right. The downtown in front has interesting buildings like an art deco City Hall, and a few strange ones, including the one where I work which is topped by a witch’s hat strung with Christmas lights.

I started making that walk more than 28 years ago as a beginning reporter saving money for a baby on the way, because one can park on Ide Street for free. I kept making it, not just because I’m thrifty (or cheap, as my two kids might say) but because it could jump-start a day covering government and politics around Spokane.

The people along that route –

What are your priorities?

It’s that wonderful time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas when all everyone is thinking about it the upcoming legislative session.  What?  You were thinking about something else?

Well regardless if four lobbyists, three new bills, two legislators, and a partridge in a pear tree are keeping your mind occupied this holiday season or not, the 2010 Washington Legislative Session is right around the corner and as per tradition this time of year, the Environmental Priorities Coalition recently announced its 2010 Environmental Priorities. 

The Environmental Priorities Coalition is a network of more than twenty leading environmental groups  in the state (including the Lands Council, Futurewise, and Conservation NW) that influence policy at the state level. Each year, the Coalition selects priority issues- usually about four - that receive the collective support of this network during the legislative session with the strategy that by narrowing the agenda, they can better focus resources and succeed in Olympia. 

This year’s Priorities are:

Safe Baby Bottle Act This act would phase out BPA in baby bottles, food and beverage cans, and other consumer products. Read more.

Working for Clean Water The Working for Clean Water bill is about creating jobs, rebuilding local economies, and cleaning up polluted waterways. Read more.

Sustain Environmental Protections in the Budget We aim to ensure Washington’s budget sustains core environmental protections that safeguard the health of our families, communities and economy. Read more.

Looks like an all-cuts budget in Wash.

Income tax plan dies. Looks like the sales-tax plan is dead, too. What will be cut? Read on.

All cuts, no new revenue. Thoughts?



More proposed state budget cuts

The new cuts will seriously undermine the poor in the state, and it seems like only constitutionally protected items are safe. But the environment took a massive hit. Below is a press release from the Washington Environmental Council.

The proposed state budget would:

Leave our water and coastal areas more susceptible to devastating pollution like oil spills. Weakening of the state oil spills program for the Puget Sound and costal beaches— a $1.9 million reduction will mean 135 fewer vessels boarded and inspected and fewer oil response drills in our waterways. The Oil Spill Oversight Council will also be eliminated.

Reduce public participation in toxic cleanups, which has been a cornerstone of Washington’s way of life. The entire $2 million program is eliminated for public participation grants making it impossible for the public to have a meaningful role in decision making for toxic cleanup in their back yards.

Center For Justice: “Paging Lisa Brown”



Making the move from the Community Building to Senate Majority Leader, we thought Lisa Brown would be an influential, pro-environment voice in Olympia. So it was shocking that she allegedly was the facilitator of SB 6036, a bill that would double the length of cleanup timelines of polluted state waterways, and supersede rules and procedures where the federal Environmental Protection Agency have traditionally had the final say.

This includes the Spokane River, a resource that will always be a catalyst for controversy. 

According to the Spokesman-Review, the bill was originally driven by Inland Empire Paper, and supported by the Department Of Ecology because IEP officials said it was impossible to meet the Clean Water Act’s phosphorous standard of 8 parts per billion and needed more time than the allotted ten years. They needed up to twenty.

Kevin Taylor, from the Inlander: Environmental groups are puzzled about how an Inland Empire “conversation” about doubling compliance schedules became a bill just before committee cutoff in the Legislature, then shot out of Sen. Lisa Brown’s office even though she is not a sponsor (and despite opposition from Spokane County Democrats) and passed 48-0 last week (admin: March 4th, 2009) with Brown absent.

On the bill’s passing, Center For Justice attorney Rich Eichstaedt, who testified against it, commented, “part of the problem with this is that there has been no dialogue between state decision-makers and the environmental community state-wide about this measure. And this affects every water body in the state that is covered with a TMDL (a clean up plan required by the federal Clean Water Act). They are using a battle ax when they should be using a scalpel.”

The Center For Justice had a few questions for Brown, and we did too. You can view Tim Connor’s post and email to Lisa Brown HERE, and his questions after the jump. But our biggest concern was this: Why exactly was this rushed? Also, shouldn’t the EPA intervene because it is inconsistent with the Federal Clean Water Act? Furthermore, is the state ready to face lawsuits from environmental groups because dischargers are setting the rules?

Information clampdown in Olympia

It’s pretty tough to get news out of the Legislature on what’s going to happen with the state budget. Rich Roesler had a column about that. Now, here’s a Seatte Times writer wondering why House Leader Frank Chopp won’t meet the press.

Must be pretty awful news if it’s being guarded so zealously from the pubilc (and lobbyists), but don’t we already know that? Bring it on. The sooner we know, the sooner we can debate.


The Seattle P-I: “Too many posers”

As a parting shot, check out a recent editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about problematic policymaking in Washington state: “We thought the state’s progressives and moderates had made up their minds to be leaders in addressing climate change. But it seems that many Democrats in the Legislature are green posers who talk a good game but turn a cowardly shade of yellow when action is needed.”

They continue to opine Democrats engaged in “blatant turn coating” with two critical green bills. “SB5840 insults voters by diluting much of a 2006 initiative on cleaner electric power…Senators watered down Gov. Chris Gregoire’s requested greenhouse gas legislation, SB5735, making it a pointless study bill that defers action on a cap-and-trade system until 2011.”

And they’re right. Recent agricultural studies in the Yakima Valley indicate immediate action, plus the economic damage of fossil fuels as evidenced by our recent post on the Sightline Scorecard.

Today marks the final print edition of the 145-year-old newspaper, Seattle’s oldest business with a circulation of 117,600 weekdays. Some of the editorial staff will remain in addition to 20 news gatherers and Web producers, plus 20 newly hired advertising sales staff for seattlepi.com

The excellent environmental blog, Dateline Earth, will discontinue as part of the P-I transition but should be available independently under another url soon.


Another Green Monday

It’s been a pretty green last few days around Spokane – unfortunately that’s just been the festive spirit of St. Patrick’s Day and the green beer and nothing to do with the coming of Spring or progress in Olympia on environmental bills. Local champion of environmental legislation Sen. Chris Marr (D) is one of many sponsors on a bill that would weaken voter-approved Initiative 937, by allowing some hydroelectric dams as qualifying power sources as part of the clean energy initiative. The bill, which is picking up steam (not wind or solar) in Olympia would likely reduce the pressure to build other renewable energy sources in Washington state.

Spring officially arrives on Friday and brings with it the excitement of awakenings both old and new. Spokane, now would be as good a time as any to follow suit.

Don’t Forget - Winona LaDuke will be in Spokane tomorrow and you have TWO chances to see her.  LaDuke, a Native American activist, environmentalist, economist, and writer who you might remember as Ralph Nader’s vice presidential nominee in 2004, will speak twice tomorrow - once at 11:30 a.m. at Spokane Falls Community College, and then again at 7:30 at The Magic Lantern.  LaDuke is an inspiring figure in the environmental community for her work as the program director of the Honor the Earth Fund where she works to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for frontline native environmental groups on a national level.

Dirty Harry and the Yucca Mountain Repository (that could be the name of a new White Stripes album). While there’s a lot to cheer about the Obama administration’s decision to end funding to nuclear storage assessments at the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada, there’s also a lot to question – specifically what it all means for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  So while it sounds great that nuke testing is off the board, Peter Dykstra from the Mother Earth Network writes, “most environmentalists should acknowledge that this has nothing to do with the safety of nukes, or the wisdom of storing radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain for millennia. It’s home state politics.” Read more of this concise look at the Yucca Mountain Repository story and the role of Harry Reid HERE.

Mr. Eichstaedt Goes To Washington. Center For Justice attorney Rick Eichstaedt traveled to D.C. for Clean Water Week, joining advocates from around the country to defend and strengthen the Clean Water Act. He also found the Spokane River has been getting national attention. Eichstaedt wrote: “Surprisingly, the efforts of the Center to address clean up of the Spokane River have not gone unnoticed in D.C. Michael Shapiro, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, shared that the work to address phosphorus discharges in the Spokane River is getting the attention of others nationwide and that the work here will set a national precedent. Staff from our Washington congressional delegation committed to tracking and providing support of our Spokane River efforts.” Eichstaedt said the trip was an inspiration—-check his take on the State of the Union address—-but the whole piece itself captures the energy and optimism of environmentalism today. MORE.

From the S-R. Oddly enough, two noteworthy stories are under the same link. First, the Spokane Transit Authority reports bus ridership continues to increase despite gas prices declining and the economy downturn, the latter which has caused a slump in rides nationally. Keeping in mind February was a shorter month, daily ridership was 41,000 in Spokane, which was higher than in January at 37,700. Second, the Fish Lake Trail project just got a boost from the federal stimulus. “The additional amount awarded to Fish Lake Trail means the city will be able to complete construction of phase two of the trail, a roughly $2 million project that includes paving 4.4 miles of trail, constructing a trail head, installing benches and safety components, and rehabilitating four existing former railroad bridges,” said Staci Lehman of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council. MORE.


Another Green Monday

It’s like the Twilight Zone. Climate change skeptics around the country are swinging wide with one hand while barely holding on to sanity with the other. Slate weighed in with a bizarre column about being guilt tripped into going green from a hotel linen-reuseable program. The Heartland Institute gathered in New York for the International Conference On Climate Change to practically discuss the benefits of denial. The most famous skeptic of all, James Inhofe, had his top aide step down to become executive director of the “Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow” (CFACT), a “clearinghouse and one-stop shopping” for disinformation. And Bjorn Lomborg, another notorious skeptic, confronted The Goracle in an attempt to start a debate, polite or not polite as he put it. Gore promptly shut him down, saying we’re at the tipping point. “There’s going to be enough of a consensus to move forward.” Here are a few less combative, more reality based stories from the weekend:

Science wins – Endangered Species Act provision restored. Last Tuesday, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum to restore rules requiring U.S Agencies to consult with either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for an independent review before moving ahead with projects that could affect plants and animals.  The memorandum reversed a Bush administration decision that allowed agencies to decide themselves whether their actions would threaten a species listed under the Endangered Species Act (doesn’t even sound realistic anymore does it). Read more about this landmark reversal from The Washington Post HERE.

Hey, the man invented the internet, what’s the big deal with letting him have his own web address ending. Al Gore and his Alliance for Climate Protection have joined with Dot Eco LLC to lobby the creation of a .eco web address to promote environmental causes. The creation of .eco needs to be approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – ICANN ( ICANN not believe this really exists) – and if it is, will be used by individuals, businesses, and corporations to show support for a, “global ecological movement to promote nonpartisan change”. Read more about it in the Seattle P-I HERE.

Mt. St. Helens – a national park or a national monument? In late February, an advisory committee drafted recommendations that the 108,000-acre Mt. St. Helens monument area pursue conversion to a national park. Late last week, an opposing advisory committee drafted a report recommending that the area remain under management of the U.S Forest Service and not be designated as a national park - the center of opposing views being which designation would secure the most funding and most tourists. As it is, the area around Mt. St. Helens is under management of the Forest Service, as it has been for a century. National Park distinction would mean that funding wouldn’t be guaranteed, especially given the current times, though it would attract more visitors, more interest, and additionally more development. Read more from the Oregon Public Broadcasting HERE.

When the recession saves the environment. “The economic crisis,” says Marina Rikhvanova, the head of the environmental group Baikal Wave, worked “like magic.” That was from an interesting article in Newsweek about the closing of the dirtiest factories due to recession, in places without pollution standards.

A Hail Mary that worked. Sometimes the man on the right looks out of compared to all the new faces in the Administration. He’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a controversial pick amongst enviros who saw him as a token to keep Obama’s own detractors happy. Well, a lot of fears were answered when Salazar upheld Bush’s decision to keep the gray wolf off the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana. It’s pretty disappointing considering the Obama environmental reversals of late. More.

Washington looks to ban BPA from baby bottles and other products. On Thursday, the House voted 76-21 to ban bisphenol A (otherwise known as the dreaded BPA!) It was quite the controversy last year when something revealed to reduce waste was called out by the Food and Drug Administration, along with the National Toxicology Program, for posing limited risks. That said, some want it banned in more items. How is it that “the science is good enough to say ban it in your REI bottle, but don’t ban it in your Pepsi can?” asked Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham, said in the P-I. Full story here.
A post from the old site on BPA (originally published June 24th, 2008) after the jump.

Blago lives!

“He’s well-suited to run a system like that,” said Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda. “And he’s looking for work.”

When Kretz publicly discussed Gov. Chris Gregoire’s “cap and trade” plan, he called it “cap and extort,” and followed with the above money quote that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich would be perfect to run it. Dude. Not even Dear Science worthy. Full article here by the S-R’s Richard Roesler.

Anti-poverty groups rally at capitol…

About 300 people from anti-poverty groups and other organizations held a rally on the capitol steps Monday afternoon. They called for restrictions on payday lending, more health care, and preservation of the General Assistance to the Unemployable program, which provides health coverage and monthly stipends of $339 to people who cannot hold a job, often due to mental health problems.

Who greets the legislative session each January with glee?

Restaurants, florists, and the city of Olympia’s traffic-fine fund.

Your turn readers!

Since we started DTE a goal of ours has always been to empower you, or readers, to make a difference locally and globally.  And for as long as we make a go of this, we will sustain that objective.  On a daily basis we strive to supply you with the kind of information that can empower you, “to be the change you want to see in the world,” and to compel you to continue the dialog in your home, your workplace and in your social setting.  Then there are times, like today, that we provide you the means for the change you want to see.

  • You’ve heard it every which way to Sunday and DTE isn’t hear to sugarcoat it - our economy is in shambles.  And right now our Congress is drafting up a stimulus package to fix it.  Included in the package is the Green Jobs Act - an opportunity to create good jobs for America, green jobs for America.  But it needs full funding from Congress.  So here is where you come in.  Write a letter to your representative(s).  Or better yet, just sign a letter that a friend of DTE’s already drafted.  We’ve made it easy for you - just click HERE - fill out your information and make your voice heard.
  • The 2009 Washington state legislative session is off and running and this years Priorities for a Healthy Washington are focused on, “promoting a vibrant and growing green economy.  The Environmental Priorities Coalition is a bipartisan support group of Washington non-profits and organizations who work to make Washington a better place by proposing and lobbying for four legislative priorities each session.  This years priorities are Cap and Invest, Efficiency First, Transit-Oriented Communities, and Invest in Clean Water.  Take a minute to read through each and then take the time to contact your representative(s) to tell them why you think they should or shouldn’t support each.  And as one of our good friends, Kitty Klitzke of Futurewise informed us about the Transit-Oriented Communities bill, “What is especially groundbreaking about this legislation is that it acknowledges the tendency of lower income people who are most reliant on transit to be forced out of city centers and areas served by transit by many efforts to become more sustainable. This is the first time we have had a bill that is also endorsed by the WA Low Income Housing Alliance. This is great for smart growth and new urbanism because in the past it has come at a price to affordable housing and we are going to prevent that in this legislation.”