April 13 Daily News editorial
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s first-term performance has been such that, when we get word that he’s about to make a major decision, we worry a little.
In the case of an upcoming announcement on how the state will deal with a federal demand that Washington update and raise its water quality standards, we worry a lot.
What the regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seems to want is for Washington to adopt the same standards adopted by Oregon in 2011, which are roughly 25 times more stringent than those in place today.
The legal wedge for all this maneuvering is average fish consumption per resident. Washington is currently using an estimate of 6.5 grams per day, a standard developed in the 1990s. In 2011, Oregon jumped this figure to 175 grams per day — about 12 pounds per month per person.
The next-highest figure currently in use by any state is New York’s 33 grams per day.
Pushing this agenda are (of course) the EPA, numerous anti-development and environmental groups and several of the state’s Indian tribes, whose representatives claim that tribe members eat far more fish than most people do and that “environmental justice” demands the standards be set as high as possible to protect even the most avid fish-eaters. It also demands that we assume that all the fish eaten by tribe members are extracted from state waters, which we know is a total fiction.
In Oregon, this has produced regulations requiring that water being discharged into, for example, a river, be cleaner than the river itself and that stormwater discharge be more free of certain impurities than it was when the water fell as rain. The technology needed to produce these results has yet to be developed, making the Oregon regulations more of a mechanism for collecting fines and shutting down targeted operations than reaching a specific water quality goal.
Officials in the city of Bellingham have estimated that adopting the Oregon standards would raise the average resident’s monthly sewer bill from $35 to $200, with the “cleaner” water still falling short of requirements. Large expenses and their ripple effects would be transferred to any person or business using public water or municipal sewage in any way.
Full impact in Oregon has yet to be experienced, as state regulators have been initially flexible in enforcement. Anti-development and tribal groups in that state, however, already are demanding full compliance and have a law on the books to back them up when and if they choose to start taking their challenges into a courtroom.
We don’t oppose the idea of clean water, and we don’t dispute that the “average” Washingtonian probably consumes more than one-half pound of fish per month, although that figure doesn’t seem quite so low when you eliminate all fish caught or produced outside the state’s borders.
We sympathize with Inslee in that he’s dealing with a regional EPA that seems to have crossed the line into activist agenda-setting and ought to be reined in by the main office in Washington, D.C., something that’s unlikely to happen. What the governor needs to do here is to resist federal pressure and to insist on reasonable standards, a course recommended by, among others, the customarily ultra-liberal and ultra-green editorial board of the Seattle Times.
Which isn’t to say that’s what we expect from Inslee, who campaigned on the promise to improve the economic climate in Washington but has instead allied his office with the environmental extremists at almost every opportunity.
Inslee should have something to say on this issue in the next few weeks.
And we’re very apprehensive.