OLYMPIA, Wash. - Just when it looked as though the state of Washington was getting tougher on the problem of polluted stormwater runoff, some lawmakers are trying to make it easier for the state to back off.
Multiple bills and amendments would allow builders to delay or avoid using newer, low-impact development techniques to filter or prevent runoff before it gets to waterways and Puget Sound.
Bruce Wishart, who has been following the debate as an environmental lobbyist for People for Puget Sound, says developers and local governments are behind the effort to weaken the state's municipal stormwater permits.
"They acknowledge that these techniques are often much more cost-effective for the developer than traditional stormwater management techniques, but they don't want to be regulated. They don't believe in new regulations that might constrain how they develop."
This year's battle comes just as the Ecology Department is finalizing new rules for stormwater permits. The public comment period just ended, and everyone from fishing guides and business owners to scuba divers and shellfish growers weighed in.
Mo McBroom, policy director for the Washington Environmental Council, says what's happening now in the Statehouse could be a last-ditch effort to affect the outcome.
"It's interesting, because some say that this legislative debate that we're having right now isn't really about passing environmental rollbacks - it's about influencing Ecology's decision-making, as the draft permit is finalized."
In last year's legislative session, opponents of stronger stormwater permits succeeded in delaying the Ecology Department's new rules for a year, and have also said they would prefer that the use of green building techniques to reduce stormwater pollution be voluntary. The final rules are expected in July.