Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Environmental Bill Signing
May 14, 2003
Thank you for coming.
Today it is my pleasure to sign a number of bills addressing significant environmental issues facing our state.
This legislation reflects hours of negotiation between groups that are not always in agreement when it comes to the best way to protect our environment.
But while there is often disagreement on the “how,” there is no disagreement over the “what.”
We all agree that our quality of life must be protected and improved.
Environmental issues are among the most hotly debated bills of the session.
They often go right down to the wire before a cut-off, or even before sine die.
This year is no exception.
But we have reached agreement on five important pieces of environmental legislation.
I will sign these into law this morning.
House Bill 1002, will move us forward in keeping mercury out of our environment.
A small mercury spill of just 1/20th of a teaspoon can contaminate a 20-acre lake to the point where fish cannot be consumed.
An estimated one thousand pounds of mercury are disposed of each year in Washington.
House Bill 1002 will begin an education program. It bans the sale of many items containing mercury such as thermometers, kids’ shoes with lights and novelty items along with florescent and certain lights.
Washington citizens will be made more aware of the sources of this dangerous chemical, and dispose of it more responsibly.
I have vetoed section 1 of the bill.
This section makes the finding that fish “caught in our region are safe for citizens to eat.”
This is not accurate.
Our departments of Ecology and Health have collaboratively issued 13 consumption advisories for certain species of fish.
These fish were found to have elevated levels of mercury and other toxic substances.
It’s important that we acknowledge these advisories.
That way we can focus on and address their causes.
And hopefully, we will reach a point when such advisories are no longer needed.
Senate Bill 6012 is the shorelines update bill.
This bill implements part of the negotiated settlement of Ecology’s shoreline guidelines.
This significant settlement shows that diverse interests can come together to work out difficult issues.
I commend all the parties to the settlement in working for this solution.
I also want to acknowledge the hard work of Attorney General Gregoire and Tom Fitzsimmons.
There leadership was critical in reaching the negotiated settlement.
Senate Bill 6072 provides funding for the retrofit of with diesel exhausts systems on school buses.
It further provides funding for the fueling infrastructure necessary to allow school bus fleets to use alternative, cleaner fuels.
Finally, it provides funding to reduce vehicle air emissions and monitor toxic air contaminants.
Recent studies show that school children are especially susceptible to respiratory illness from exposure to diesel soot and exhaust from school buses.
Senate Bill 6072 provides necessary funding to begin a program that will protect our kids’ health.
Senate Bill 6072 also provides funding for a response tug at Neah Bay.
Earlier this year, I asked the Legislature to fund a response tug at Neah Bay.
And they did.
This funding will provide $2.8 million for two years for the operation of the tug.
The tug will protect our coast from potential disaster of a drift grounding of a vessel.
Importantly, the Legislature was able to provide funding for these critical programs within available resources.
Today, I will also sign House Bill 1240, a “biodiesel bill.”
This bill provides for deferral or exemption of sales and use taxes for construction machinery and equipment used in the manufacture of biodiesel fuel, alcohol fuels, and biodiesel feedstock.
These fuels can help improve air quality.
But one barrier to production of these fuels is the high cost of the needed facilities.
These costs can be reduced through the exemption incentives in this new law.
These manufacturing facilities could also provide economic development opportunities in rural areas and stimulate the agricultural economy of our state.
Finally, Substitute Senate Bill 6073 adds a surcharge on shellfish licenses to raise money for biotoxin testing and monitoring by the Department of Health.
This will help address a threat to our coasts—algae blooms that produce domoic acid, a powerful toxin.
This toxin makes our shellfish and crab unsafe to eat.
This biotoxin has shutdown clam digging at our beaches, and stopped the harvest of crab in Willapa Bay.
It’s estimated that the 2002-2003 closures of the beaches cost our coastal communities $10.4 million.
The new law will allow the Department of Health to work with the Olympic Natural Resources Center at the University of Washington.
Together, they will identify the source of this bloom and recommend strategies for how we can address this problem.
These five bills show how much progress we can make on critical environmental issues when all interests work together.
We will continue to work together to maintain our quality of life, and protect and preserve our environment.
I will now sign these five environmental bills into law.
With these new laws, we’re taking another step toward a sustainable future that includes a healthy environment.
We want to make sure that our state remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family—for us, and for future generations.