WA Updates

June 5, 2024

Washington’s Department of Ecology Plans to Ban Formaldehyde Releasers from Cosmetics

Washington’s Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act (TFCA) prohibits the sale of cosmetic products containing certain added chemicals beginning January 1, 2025. One such chemical that will be prohibited is formaldehyde – but the TFCA does not expressly prohibit chemicals that release formaldehyde (known as formaldehyde releasers). Instead, the statute directed Washington’s Department of Ecology (Ecology) to define and identify formaldehyde releasers. Ecology is currently undergoing rulemaking to implement the TFCA. Ecology plans to adopt a rule to identify formaldehyde releasers that will be restricted from use in cosmetics once identified.

Read the full news alert here. –Authors: Mark Duvall, Liz Johnson, Jordann Krouse (2024 Summer Associate)

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May 30, 2024

Ecology Proposes Significant—And Legally Vulnerable—Changes to Washington’s Industrial Stormwater General Permit

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) published for public comment its proposed 2025 Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP), which authorizes the discharge of stormwater and certain conditionally authorized “non-stormwater” discharges, from industrial activities in the State of Washington, as well as the corresponding draft Fact Sheet.

Read the full news alert here. –Authors: Erika Spanton, Allyn Stern, Katy O'Keefe

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April 2, 2024

Ecology to begin Nooksack Water Adjudication in April 2024

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) announced it will begin an adjudication of water rights in Water Resources Inventory Area 1 (WRIA1), including the Nooksack River system, in April 2024. An adjudication is the process of determining the location, quantity, and priority of all water rights held in a certain area. Water use in Washington is prioritized using the “first in time, first in right” system, meaning that in times of water scarcity, water uses that began earlier have priority over uses that began later. The adjudication will apply to all water users in WRIA1 who do not get their water from a water utility.

Read the full news alert here. –Authors: Dave Weber, Barbara Marvin, Rachel Roberts

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February 9, 2024

Washington Identifies Screening Tools for Initial Contaminated Site EJ Assessments

The Washington Department of Ecology’s recent amendments to the state contaminated site cleanup regulations under the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) require screening to determine whether contaminated sites may affect “vulnerable populations” or “overburdened communities” at different stages of the cleanup process. In January 2024, Ecology released high-level methodological guidance, Implementation Memorandum No. 25: Identifying Likely Vulnerable Populations and Overburdened Communities under the Cleanup Regulations, on how to make these initial determinations.

Read the full news alert here. –Authors: Gus Winkes, Barbara Marvin, Chris Bolte

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January 23, 2024

Washington State Petitions EPA to Ban Inadvertently Generated PCBs – Targeted to Pigments, Inks, and Dyes

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) filed a petition on January 4, 2024, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requesting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reduce allowances for inadvertently generated polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in consumer products. Ecology’s petition asks EPA to initiate a rulemaking to phase-in “an eventual limit of zero” for inadvertently generated PCBs over a ten-year period. Ecology is primarily concerned with inadvertently generated PCBs found in pigments, inks, and dyes.

Read the full news alert here. –Authors: Ryan Carra, Mark Duvall, Dave Weber, Nick Hanel

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January 4, 2024

Pacific Northwest Climate Law Update: Recent Developments Cloud the Future of Oregon and Washington Climate Programs

Two developments toward the end of 2023 have clouded the future of climate policy in the Pacific Northwest. First, on November 21, 2023, opponents of Washington’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) submitted more than 400,000 signatures to the Washington Secretary of State’s office supporting Initiative 2117 (I-2117). If approved, I-2117 would repeal the CCA. Second, on December 20, 2023, the Oregon Court of Appeals struck down Oregon’s Climate Protection Program, concluding that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) did not provide proper notice when it adopted the program by administrative rulemaking. Northwest Natural Gas Co. v. Oregon Environmental Quality Commission, 329 Or.App. 648, __ P.3d __ (2023).

Read the full news alert here. –Authors: Eric ChristensenBrook DettermanDave WeberCasey Clausen

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January 3, 2024

Washington Initiates Sustainable Aviation Fuel Rulemaking Under State’s Clean Fuel Standard Program

To bolster its Clean Fuels Program Rule, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) announced that it will begin a rulemaking to promote the production and use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in Washington. The rulemaking aims to establish SAF pathways to enable producers to generate credits under the State’s Clean Fuels Standards (CFS) program. Ecology also intends to make several other regulatory changes, including to book-and-claim accounting and third-party verification requirements. Ecology will hold stakeholder meetings from January through Fall of 2024. Stakeholders can find updates on Ecology’s rulemaking webpage and subscribe to its CFS email list for developments.

Read the full news alert. - Authors: Dave Weber, Gus Winkes, Jesse Miles

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December 12, 2023

Washington State Drafts Determinations on PFAS-Containing Products

Continuing Washington State’s push towards implementing one of the nation’s strictest chemicals laws, the Department of Ecology (Ecology) recently published its Draft Regulatory Determinations Report on certain products containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These regulatory determinations, set to be finalized in June 2024, would guide Ecology’s future rulemaking on placing restrictions or reporting requirements on certain PFAS-containing products. These products include apparel and gear, firefighting PPE, cleaning products, automotive washes, waxes (for automobiles, floors, and skis), hard surface sealants, and cookware and kitchen supplies. Stakeholders should note which products might have reporting requirements or restrictions and provide comments to Ecology during the comment period, which expires on January 12, 2024.

Read the full news alert. - Authors: Ryan Carra, Nessa Horewitch Coppinger, Russ LaMotte, Dave Weber, Nick Hanel

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September 18, 2023

Ecology to Consider Expanding Carbon Offsets Available Under Washington State’s “Cap-and-Invest” Program

On September 12, 2023, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) launched a new rulemaking addressing the use of carbon offsets to comply with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits under Washington’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA). Ecology is considering rule amendments “to increase the potential variety of offset projects that can be developed within the cap-and-invest program.” The rulemaking seeks to enhance the use of carbon offsets for compliance with CCA obligations, providing additional options and cost-management approaches for entities subject to the CCA.

Read the full news alert. - Authors: Eric Christensen, Brook Detterman, Dave WeberAstrika Adams

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August 28, 2023

MTCA Gets a Makeover: Ecology Finalizes First Major Updates to Washington Cleanup Rule in 20 Years

After a multi-year rulemaking process, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued the first substantive updates to the contaminated site cleanup regulations, Chapter 173-340 WAC, under the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) in over 20 years. The changes clarify the site discovery, investigation, remedy selection, and cleanup process, with a significant emphasis on integrating environmental justice considerations into the regulatory framework. The changes also include revisions to Ecology’s system for ranking site hazards and programmatic planning priorities. The updates will become effective on January 1, 2024.

Read the full news alert. - Authors: Dave Weber, Gus Winkes

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August 1, 2023

Vehicle Fleet Reporting Requirements in Washington State

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is requiring owners and operators of medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fleets to report information about their fleets to Ecology by September 30, 2023. Adopted in December 2022, WAC 173-423-083 requires owners, operators, and managers of medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fleets to complete a one-time report with certain information about their vehicles and their operations to Ecology. The broadly applicable reporting requirement aims to gather information on medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) vehicles and vehicle operations throughout the state, which Ecology will use to evaluate options for future emissions reduction strategies. The requirement is modeled on similar reporting obligations under California’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule and Oregon’s Clean Trucks rule. MHD vehicles are those weighing more than 8,500 pounds GVWR.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Dave Weber, Gus Winkes, Liz Glusman, Kirstin Gruver, Nikki Waxman

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July 31, 2023

Washington State Proposes Sweeping Changes to Key Greenhouse Gas Regulation

On July 13, 2023, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) published proposed amendments to Chapter 173-443 WAC, Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Key provisions of the Proposed Rule include:

  1. Establishing maximum global warming potential (GWP) thresholds for HFCs used in new stationary refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, small cans of refrigerant, and certain nonessential consumer aerosol products;
  2. Establishing a refrigerant management program with registration, leak inspection, leak repair, recordkeeping and reporting requirements for owners or operators of large stationary refrigeration and air conditioning systems; and
  3. Establishing required service practices for technicians who service stationary refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

Ecology requests comment on the Proposed Rule by August 31, 2023.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Allyn Stern, Dave Weber

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June 19, 2023

Washington State Finalizes Chemical in Product Restrictions; Announces Next Targets

Armed with one of the country’s strongest state chemicals laws, the state of Washington is solidifying its status as a global player in product regulation. We discuss the latest developments below.

Key Takeaways

  • What is happening? The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) has completed Cycle 1 of its Safer Products for Washington program and signaled its direction for Cycle 2. To complete Cycle 1, Ecology finalized rules restricting the presence of certain chemicals in certain products and imposing reporting requirements for other chemical product combinations. Ecology also established a process by which companies may request an exemption from Safer Products for Washington requirements. Separately, Ecology published its Draft Report to the legislature identifying potential priority chemicals for Cycle 2 of the program. The report identifies seven new chemicals and classes of chemicals for potential regulation. Ecology is requesting comment on the Draft Report by July 14, 2023.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Ryan Carra, Russ LaMotte, Dave Weber, Kirstin Gruver

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May 30, 2023

Supreme Court Narrows CWA Jurisdiction Over Waters of the U.S.

On May 25, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Sackett v. EPA, No. 21-454, holding that Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction extends to wetlands only if they have a continuous surface connection to relatively permanent bodies of water. The ruling is the latest (and some hope final) chapter in the saga to define the scope of federal jurisdiction over “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The Court infamously exacerbated the controversy in its 2006 non-decision in Rapanos v. United States, where the Justices split 4-1-4 and issued two competing tests for evaluating CWA jurisdiction.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Jamie Auslander, Eric Christensen, Richard Davis, Karen Hansen, Parker Moore, Drew Silton, Erika Spanton, Allyn Stern, Tim Sullivan, Jonas Reagan

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May 2, 2023

Washington State Battery EPR Bill Poised to Become Law

On April 18, 2023, the Washington state legislature passed SB 5144: Providing for responsible environmental management of batteries (the Bill). It is now on the Governor’s desk for signature. The Bill creates an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for producers of covered batteries and is another recent example of a state law establishing a broad EPR program to cover all battery chemistries, including lithium-ion batteries.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Paul Hagen, Lauren Hopkins, Russ LaMotte, Mary Burdette, Kirstin Gruver

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February 16, 2023

Washington Department of Ecology Signals that Nooksack Basin Water Rights Adjudication is Ready for Launch

As previously discussed, the Washington legislature launched a process to quantify and permanently adjudicate water rights in the Nooksack River basin. After several years of preliminary work, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) recently announced that it intends to file a complaint, which would trigger a water rights adjudication in Whatcom County Superior Court this summer. That filing will initiate a formal process for quantifying and prioritizing water rights in the Nooksack Basin that will involve all holders of water rights in the Basin. The adjudication intends to reconcile growing demands and the Basin’s limited water supply through a formal legal process. This adjudication will be accompanied by voluntary processes to settle disputes and expedite the adjudication. In the absence of settlement, water rights adjudications can be expected to take years or even decades.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Erika Spanton, Rachel Roberts

January 31, 2023

Washington District Court Reversal on MTCA Liability for Smokestack Emissions

A court in the Eastern District of Washington recently reversed its prior decision concluding that the deposition of aerial emissions from a smokestack in Canada could support a claim for arranger liability under Washington’s cleanup statute, the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). The court previously held that under MTCA, “[t]he ordinary meaning of ‘disposal’ does not preclude [disposal by aerial emissions], and crucially, MTCA expressly contemplates cleanup sites created by aerial contamination,” despite a 2016 Ninth Circuit decision in the same matter that denied arranger liability under CERCLA based on aerial emissions for the same facility.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: David WeberGus WinkesRachel Roberts

January 5, 2023

Washington State Issues Draft Guidance for PFAS Investigation and Remediation

In mid-December 2022, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) released Draft Guidance for Investigating and Remediating PFAS Contamination in Washington State.

The Draft Guidance would apply to independent cleanups and those that Ecology supervised or conducted. It follows Ecology’s decision last year to include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under Washington’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), the Washington Department of Health’s establishment of State Action Levels for five PFAS compounds in drinking water, and the publication over the summer of preliminary cleanup levels for soil and groundwater for six PFAS compounds, including the five with State Action Levels. The Draft Guidance identifies preliminary cleanup levels for six PFAS compounds and signals that Ecology intends to develop additional standards to reflect new federal and/or state PFAS regulations and the availability of new scientific information.

Comments on the Draft Guidance are due by January 27, 2023.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Gus Winkes, Megan Withroder

December 7, 2022

Tribal Treaty Rights Take Center Stage in Two Landmark Federal Water Quality Actions

Key Takeaways

  • What Happened? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking to increase the protection of tribal treaty rights through water quality standards. First, EPA issued a final rule re-establishing strict federal water quality criteria in Washington State with a stated goal of “protect[ing] the health of...tribes with treaty-reserved rights to fish” (2022 Human Health Criteria Rule). Second, on the heels of its human health criteria rulemaking for Washington, EPA published a proposed rule expressly mandating that states, tribes, and EPA consider treaty rights to aquatic and aquatic-dependent resources when setting water quality standards nationwide, and detailing the requirements and mechanisms for doing so (2023 Water Quality Standards Revision Rule).

  • Who Is Affected? The 2022 Human Health Criteria Rule affects industries, municipalities, trade organizations, and tribes in the State of Washington. If adopted, the 2023 Water Quality Standards Revision Rule will affect industries, municipalities, trade organizations, and tribes throughout the country.
  • Next Steps? We anticipate future legal challenges to EPA’s 2022 Human Health Criteria Rule, as the final rule is unlikely to settle the controversial saga of Washington’s human health criteria. On the 2023 Water Quality Standards Revision Rule, we recommend that interested parties consider submitting written comments on the proposed rule and/or presenting oral comments at one of two upcoming public hearings on January 24 and 31, 2023.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Dave Weber, Eric Christensen, Allyn Stern, Erika Spanton, Rachel Roberts, John O'Meara

November 30, 2022

Informal Comments on Washington Department of Ecology’s Draft 2024 Municipal Stormwater General Permits and Draft 2024 Stormwater Management Manuals Due Friday, December 2, 2022

Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is preparing draft 2024 Phase I and Phase II Municipal Stormwater General Permits, a draft updated Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington (SWMMWW), and a draft updated Stormwater Management Manual for Eastern Washington (SWMMEW) for publication in 2024. Ecology is expected to release complete, final drafts of the proposed 2024 permits and manuals for formal public comment during the summer of 2023. In the interim, Ecology is seeking informal comments through midnight Friday, December 2, 2022, on aspects of the current drafts. Municipalities, industries, and trade associations potentially impacted by the proposed changes may want to consider submitting informal comments.

Ecology is seeking informal comment on the following potential municipal stormwater general permit changes:

  1. Standard outfall reporting – mapping. Ecology is proposing to require permittees to report outfall locations. Currently, permittees are required to map all municipal stormwater outfalls and report outfall size and material; however, permittees are not currently required to report the location of the outfalls.
  1. Tree retention – stormwater planning or monitoring & assessment. Ecology proposes set tree canopy retention/restoration objectives and requires certain tree canopy documentation.
  1. PCBs – Education and outreach, IDDE, O&M. Ecology proposes additional permit requirements related to stormwater management for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in building materials. Specifically, Ecology is considering (1) adding “proper handling of materials to reduce pollution to stormwater, including PCBs in building materials” as a subject area for general awareness education targeting engineers, contractors, developers, and land use planners, (2) further limiting conditionally allowable discharges of routine external building washdowns, and (3) expressly requiring the development of policies, procedures, and practices for external building washdowns of municipally owned buildings constructed between 1950-1980 and the “proper handling” of building materials during demolition and renovations of municipally owned buildings.

Ecology seeks informal comment on the following potential stormwater management manual changes:

  1. The addition of a section to the manuals regarding “Climate Change Impacts on Stormwater Management”, including Ecology’s proposed recommended “actions to help mitigate the impacts of climate change on stormwater management design” such as “[a]pplying more [Low Impact Development (LID)], rather than managing the stormwater at the end of pipe or receiving water bodies” and “[upsizing] BMPs when possible by changing the Flow Control goals to capture larger storms (e.g. 100 yr peak flow instead of 50 yr) in more vulnerable areas.”
  1. The addition of content regarding nutrients, PCBS, and 6PPD-quinone to the “Stormwater Pollutants and Their Adverse Impacts” section of the manuals.
  1. Updates to the source control best management practices recommendations for PCBs.
  1. Updates to the Bioretention BMP section to include the option of using High Performance Bioretention Soil Mix (HPBSM), and guide the design infiltration rate for the Custom Bioretention Soil Mix.
  1. Updates the “Appendix 1 of the MS4 Permits” section to reflect new project level and TDA level thresholds for the minimum requirements (SWMMWM- Western Manual) and new project level and core element level thresholds for the core element (SWMMEW-Eastern Manual).

Informal comment on the preliminary proposed municipal stormwater general permit changes and/or preliminary proposed manual changes may be submitted here through midnight December 2, 2022. Interested parties can also start thinking strategically about formal comments to submit next year. The topics discussed above serve as a preview of the key proposed changes municipalities, industries, and trade associations can expect to see in the full draft municipal permits and draft stormwater management manuals slated to be released for formal public comment in the summer of 2023. Informal comments are an opportunity to provide early input and potentially influence Ecology’s proposed updates to the permits and stormwater management manuals. Please contact the authors for more information about Ecology’s proposed permit and manual changes, or assistance with the public comment process.

Authors: Susan Smith, Allyn Stern, Erika Spanton

October 13, 2022

MTCA Liability for Smokestack Emissions

As detailed in a new alert from B&D, the court later reversed the decision described below.

Last month, a federal court judge in the Eastern District of Washington concluded that deposition of aerial emissions from a smokestack could support a claim for arranger liability under Washington’s cleanup statute, the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA).

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Dave Weber, Gus Winkes, Rachel Roberts

October 5, 2022

Ecology’s 6PPD Subgroup Seeks Input on Research Priorities and Topics at October 6 Subgroup Meeting

The Washington Department of Ecology’s Stormwater Work Group (SWG)’s 6PPD Subgroup will seek input at its October 6, 2022 (1:00 pm PT) subcommittee meeting on 6PPD-quinone focused research priorities and topics for a fourth round of Stormwater Action Monitoring (SAM) studies.

6PPD is an important tire preservative (antioxidant and antiozonant) that helps prevent the degradation and cracking of rubber. It is a safety component of almost every automobile tire on the road. 6PPD-quinone is the transformation product of 6PPD that forms when 6PPD reacts with oxygen and/or ozone. It is believed to be capable of mobilizing from rubbers into water when wet. 6PPD-quinone was highlighted during a 2020 study of mass die offs of pre-spawning Coho salmon (referred to as urban runoff mortality syndrome). The 2020 study drew a connection between 6PPD-quinone and Coho salmon mortality.

The proposed study topic list will be voted on by the larger SWG at its upcoming November 16, 2022 meeting. The topics list will provide the foundation for Ecology’s request for proposal (RFP) in January 2023 for new SAM Effectiveness and Source ID studies. These studies will be funded with revenue collected under the municipal stormwater permits from 2022-2024. A project selection workshop is expected to occur in late 2023.

Tomorrow’s subcommittee meeting will also include a discussion of current 6PPD-quinone and tire wear studies and planning.

Meeting details follow:

October 6, 2022 at 1:00 pm PT:

Authors: Ryan CarraErika Spanton

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June 13, 2022

Washington Advances the Western Front of Product Regulation

The state of Washington has become a global player in product regulation. This month, the Department of Ecology issued a determination to restrict or require reporting on the use of five classes of chemicals in products. In some cases, the restrictions may be first-in-class – depending on how Ecology implements the determination – meaning that manufacturers may need to alter their product compositions to continue selling in Washington. This month’s action obligates Ecology to finalize the determination in a rulemaking by June 1, 2023.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Ryan Carra, Russ LaMotte, Dave Weber

June 8, 2022

Washington State’s Economy-Wide Climate Plan Takes Shape: Ecology Seeks Comment on Proposed Climate Commitment Act Program Rule

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has proposed new rules to implement an economy-wide “cap-and-invest” program in Washington State. With comments due on June 30, 2022, these rules have the potential to impact businesses in many industries across the state.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Brook DettermanDavid WeberMajidah CochranGabriella Lanzas (Summer Associate), Anna Beyette

November 1, 2021

PFAS Determined To Be Hazardous Substances Under Washington’s Cleanup Law

With its decision to list per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under Washington’s cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), the Department of Ecology ushers in a new era of uncertainty, and potential liability, at cleanup sites across the state. Ecology’s decision followed on the heels of the Washington Department of Health’s August 2021 proposed rule to set State Action Levels for five PFAS compounds in drinking water. The announcement, which was short on details, raises a host of compliance and liability questions.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: David WeberMichael CampinellGus WinkesMegan Withroder

August 17, 2021

Practical Tips for Managing the Risks of PCBs in Building Materials

Even though polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have not been manufactured in the U.S. for over forty years, they continue to be present in building materials, including in caulk and joint materials, paint, siding, roofing, and light ballasts.  PCBs are more common in structures built or renovated between 1950 and 1979.  The ongoing presence of PCBs can create risks for building owners and material manufacturers.  Where appropriate, identification, removal, and proper disposal of building materials containing PCBs may help mitigate these risks.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Rachel RobertsDavid WeberLoren DunnGus Winkes

June 30, 2021

States and Federal Government Continue to Advance Plastics Recycling and Minimum Recycled Content Mandates

What is happening? Connecticut has joined several other states in imposing plastic recycling mandates on manufacturers. These laws seek to improve the market for recyclables by establishing recycled content minimums for plastic products, establishing extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, and examining ways to improve recycling infrastructure.

Who is impacted? Manufacturers that use plastics and retailers that sell plastic products in states that have already passed legislation, or proposed legislation establishing recycled content minimums, EPR programs, or improvements to recycling infrastructure.

What should stakeholders do? Stakeholders should closely monitor current and pending state plastics legislation and prepare for any upcoming public notice-and-comment periods.

For the full news alert, see here. –Authors: Russ LaMotte, Sarah KettenmannSarah MungerNikki Waxman

June 22, 2021

New Fishing Limits Proposed for Pacific Commercial Chinook Salmon

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) submitted a proposed amendment – Amendment 21 – to the Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan (FMP) to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for review and approval. The Council manages salmon fisheries, including Chinook, in the EEZ off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Council’s FMP sets forth the framework for how Council-area salmon fisheries are managed. The stated goal of Amendment 21 “is to limit ocean salmon fishery impacts on foraging opportunities for [Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW)] on Chinook salmon in years of low Chinook salmon abundance.”

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Kirstin Gruver, Erika Spanton, Jamie Auslander

June 3, 2021

Washington Department of Ecology Releases Draft Green Remediation Guidance

At the end of May, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued draft Green Remediation guidance for public review and comment. The comment period ends June 25, 2021.

  • Ecology’s purpose in developing the guidance is to “increase the environmental benefit and reduce the environmental impacts during the cleanup process” under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act.
  • The green remediation guidance includes best management practices (BMPs) to consider during site investigation and remedy selection and implementation.
  • At Ecology-led cleanups, the agency will require the use of green remediation BMPs. For Ecology-supervised cleanups at formal cleanup sites and for independent cleanups, Ecology will encourage the use of the BMPs.
  • Parties performing cleanups should look closely at the extent to which green remediation BMPs may be relevant to the development and evaluation of remedy alternatives.
  • Notably, Ecology has indicated that implementing the BMPs in “highly impacted communities” can have environmental justice benefits.

Ecology will include the green remediation guidance as an appendix to Ecology’s 2017 publication on Adaptation Strategies for Resilient Cleanup Remedies.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: David Weber, Tracy Williams, Gus Winkes

May 24, 2021

The Clock is Ticking for Water Users in the Nooksack Basin to Settle their Disputes 

Now that Washington’s 2021–2022 budget bill has become law, there is increased pressure on water users in the Nooksack basin to settle their disputes before the state steps in and files an adjudication. Washington’s 2021–2022 operating budget authorizes Ecology to prepare to file a water rights adjudication in Whatcom County Superior Court by June 1, 2023. The budget also provides $125,000 for Whatcom County to lead a collaborative process for the Nooksack basin in fiscal years 2022 and 2023. Because the state fiscal year begins on July 1 of the year prior to the one for which it is named, this means that this funding should be available as soon as July 1 of this year. 

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Lucy Infeld, Rachel Roberts

May 20, 2021

Washington Department of Ecology Proposes Model Remedy to Address Legacy Contamination from Orchards

Lead arsenate, a pesticide that was used regularly in orchards until the 1940s, has contributed to lead and arsenic contamination in large swaths (over 100,000 acres) of Central and Eastern Washington. Some former orchards have been converted to new uses, including residential neighborhoods, schools, and parks. To address exposure concerns and facilitate cleanup, the Department of Ecology (Ecology) has proposed a model remedy under the Model Toxics Control Act. The agency is requesting comments on the proposed remedy until June 7, 2021.

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Loren Dunn, Rachel Roberts, Tracy Williams, David Weber, Gus Winkes

May 19, 2021

Washington State Plastics Bill Imposes Minimum Content Requirements on Many Household and Food Service Products

**UPDATE: Governor Inslee signed SB5022 into law on May 17, 2021.**

On April 21, 2021, the Washington State legislature passed a sweeping new minimum recycled content bill, SB5022, which creates recycled content minimums for some plastic products sold in Washington State, bans the sale and distribution of certain types of plastic, and establishes registration and reporting requirements for manufacturers of specific plastic products. The bill also bans expanded polystyrene (EPS) and limits how the food service industry can provide consumers with single-use plastic products such as eating utensils and straws. Additionally, the bill also imposes reporting and registration requirements for manufacturers of certain plastic products. Governor Jay Inslee vetoed a similar bill last year, primarily due to costs and timing at the onset of the pandemic, but some news sources indicate that Governor Inslee is likely to sign this bill.

Read the full news alert. Authors: Russ LaMotte, Allyn Stern, Dacia Meng, Nicole Waxman

May 18, 2021

Washington Adopts Economy-Wide Climate Legislation: “Cap-and-Invest” Approach Sets a Price For Carbon Emissions And Allows Washington To Join Existing Emissions Credit Markets

On May 17, 2021, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Washington Climate Commitment Act (CCA), which will create an economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and create a system in which GHG credits are auctioned and can be traded. In combination with the Clean Energy Transformation Act, enacted in 2019, and the newly-enacted Clean Fuel Standard, the legislation sets a course for the state to decarbonize its economy by 2050.

Read the full news alert. Authors: Eric Christensen, Brook Detterman, David Weber, Gus Winkes

May 18, 2021

Fourth Time's The Charm: Washington Enacts Clean Fuels Program, Creating West Coast Market For Low-Carbon Transportation Fuels

After four tries to enact a low carbon fuel standard, Governor Jay Inslee on May 17, 2021, signed HB 1091, new legislation that will establish a Clean Fuels Program (CFP) designed to limit the carbon intensity of transportation fuel in the State of Washington. Washington’s CFP will be linked to existing low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) programs in Oregon and California, creating a West Coast market for biofuels and other low-carbon transportation fuels, as well as a regional market for LCFS carbon reduction credits.

Read the full news alert. Authors: Eric Christensen, Brook Detterman, David Weber, Gus Winkes

May 18, 2021

Washington Joins Chorus of States with Major Environmental Justice Laws

Washington State has joined a growing number of states that have adopted keystone environmental justice laws. On May 17, 2021, Governor Jay Inslee signed the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, E2SSB 5141, into law.

The new law recognizes that many communities experience disproportionately greater environmental health impacts as a result of multiple social, economic, and environmental stressors. Its principal objectives are to reduce and eliminate these disparities and to “remedy the effects of past disparate treatment of overburdened communities and vulnerable populations.”

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Stacey Halliday, Julius Redd, Allyn Stern, Gus Winkes

May 17, 2021

Gov. Inslee Partially Vetoes Legislation Setting 2030 Goal For All Sales Of Vehicles To Be Electric, But Adopts Provisions Laying The Groundwork For Broad Electric Vehicle Adoption

In its just-concluded session, the Washington legislature passed several pieces of legislation intended to promote the transition of Washington’s transportation system away from fossil fuels. The most consequential of these, the Clean Fuels Program, is scheduled to be signed by Gov. Inslee on May 17, 2021. Three additional pieces of legislation are also worthy of note. HB 1287 lays the groundwork for the transition to an electrified transportation system. SB 5192 sets requirements for standardization of public electric vehicle charging stations. Finally, SB 5000 creates a sales and use tax exemption for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

**Updated on May 17, 2021, to reflect Gov. Inslee’s partial veto of HB 1287**

Read the full news alert. AuthorsDavid Weber, Eric Christensen

May 13, 2021

Comments Open on EPA and Washington State Environmental Performance Partnership Agreement

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) have opened a 30 day comment period for an Environmental Performance Partnership Agreement (Agreement) between the agencies. The comment period lasts from April 30, 2021 to May 30, 2021. Interested parties can submit comments here.

According to Ecology, the agencies entered the Agreement to “[r]ecognize mutual environmental goals, strategies, activities and performance measures.” The Agreement also provides background on EPA-funded projects on water quality, air quality, hazardous waste, and nuclear waste that Ecology will carry out during the term of the Agreement.

The Agreement focuses on several major areas of importance to both agencies, including assisting vulnerable groups or populations with environmental concerns. EPA and Ecology acknowledge a mutual priority to address environmental and health inequities and to incorporate environmental justice initiatives. Additionally, the Agreement prioritizes children’s environmental health and adds language focused on children’s health to the Mutual Priorities chapter, highlighting its importance to the agencies.

The agencies also use the Agreement to emphasize a mutual focus on water quality work. The Agreement calls for additional environmental work for the Columbia River Basin, including protection and restoration efforts for the Puget Sound and Columbia River, and a new section in the Water Quality Program focused on the Columbia River Restoration Program. The agencies also place an emphasis on the importance of groundwater inspections and testing at corrective action sites as part of the Agreement. 

The Agreement is part of the National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS), established by EPA as a way to coordinate work between the federal government, states, and tribes. Agreements under the NEPPS establish joint priorities and develop a strategic approach to environmental protection.

The EPA and Ecology are seeking comments on the priorities, goals, and implications of this Partnership Agreement. The effective date of this Agreement begins on July 1, 2021. The short timeline between the comment period and the effective date means that any interested parties should be sure to submit all comments by the May 30, 2021 comment deadline to ensure that the agencies can respond to and incorporate comments into the Agreement.

Author: Lucy Infeld

February 22, 2021

Ninth Circuit Affirms Partial Vacatur of NWP 48 for Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture

On February 11, 2021, the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision vacating Nationwide Permit (NWP) 48, Commercial Shellfish Mariculture Activities, in Washington State. As previously discussed, industry appealed the lower court’s holding that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) violated the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it issued NWP 48 in 2017. Industry also appealed the lower court’s order that vacated the permit and prior authorizations under it in Washington State and temporarily stayed vacatur in certain instances. The government notably did not appeal.

Read the full news alert– AuthorsJamie Auslander, Kirstin Gruver, Erika Spanton

February 4, 2021

Seattle Bans Natural Gas in New Buildings

On February 1st, 2021, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s natural gas ban. Last December, Mayor Durkan sent City Council proposed legislation to update Seattle’s Commercial Energy Code.

The approved amendments ban natural gas for space heating in commercial and apartment buildings taller than three stories; prohibits the use of natural gas to heat water in new hotels and large apartment buildings; requires commercial and apartment buildings to wire for future electrification of appliances; and requires the use of more efficient electric heating and cooling systems, among other measures. 

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Kirstin Gruver, Rue Muza

February 1, 2021

Washington State Legislation Would Authorize Two New Large-Scale Water Rights Adjudications

Legislators in Washington State introduced parallel bills that would authorize funding for two water adjudications in Washington State. A water rights adjudication effectively brings all water users in a watershed into one lawsuit to fully determine everyone’s water rights legally and permanently. Identical provisions of HB 1094 and SB 5092 would appropriate general funds for the Washington State Department of Ecology to prepare and file adjudications in the Nooksack watershed in Northwest Washington and the Lake Roosevelt watershed in Eastern Washington. Interested parties can submit comments on these bills here and here.

If these bills pass, water users in Whatcom County and Eastern Washington should prepare to join a collaborative process, if available, and the water rights adjudication, in order to protect their access to water. 

Read the full news alert. –Authors: Lucy Infeld, Rachel Roberts

December 31, 2020

Seattle City Light Issues Request for Proposals Seeking 250 Megawatts of Renewable Resources

As we have previously discussed, electric utilities across the Northwest have or are planning to issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) seeking very large quantities of renewable generation. On December 29, 2020, Seattle City Light joined the parade, issuing a new RFP for renewable resources. 

City Light’s RFP seeks 50 to 250 megawatts of nameplate capacity wind or solar generation, with or without battery storage included. Major deadlines are:

  • February 15, 2021: Notice of intent to bid due.
  • March 1, 2021: Deadline to submit proposals.
  • May 17, 2021: Bids selected.
  • October 1, 2021: Contract execution.
  • 2023-25: Project operation date.

The new RFP represents another major opportunity for renewable energy producers in the Pacific Northwest.  –Author: Eric Christensen

December 22, 2020

Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission Issues Policy Statement on Renewable Natural Gas

On December 16, 2020, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) issued a Policy Statement on renewable natural gas program design that provides important guidance for expansion of this nascent industry in the State of Washington. While not binding, the Policy Statement sets forth the UTC’s anticipated regulatory treatment for renewable natural gas, which many tout as the “next big thing” in green energy, a potentially major new industry that can tap methane produced by, for example, dairy farms and waste treatment facilities to replace natural gas produced from fossil fuels.

For the full news alert, see here. –Authors: Eric ChristensenDave Weber

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December 16, 2020

Seattle Expands Energy Efficiency as a Service Program

Seattle City Light (City Light) has announced that it will significantly expand its “Energy Efficiency as a Service” (EEaS) pilot program in 2021. As we have described in more detail here and here, City Light’s program leverages the success of the Metered Energy Efficiency Transaction Structure (MEETS) modeled at Seattle’s Bullitt Center, widely recognized to be one of the world’s greenest buildings. The MEETS/EEaS financing model provides a new revenue stream for building owners by allowing them to capitalize on the energy efficiency potential of their buildings. It also creates incentives for deeper energy efficiency retrofits and financing over a much longer term than standard energy efficiency programs.

For the full news alert, see here. –Author: Eric Christensen

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December 8, 2020

Seattle Proposes Natural Gas Ban for New Buildings

On December 3, 2020, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced new measures for electrifying buildings to help achieve the City’s aggressive climate goals. By updating its energy code, Durkan proposes banning the use of natural gas for space heating in new commercial buildings and large apartment buildings.  Gas for water heating would also be barred in hotels and large apartment buildings. The proposed changes would not affect newly constructed houses and townhouses. Energy codes for those buildings are set by the state.

For the full news alert, see here. –Authors: Rue Maza, Eric Christensen, Kirstin Gruver

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December 4, 2020

Scientific Study Links Tire Preservative Chemical 6PPD to Fish Deaths

Yesterday, Science published a peer-reviewed scientific study linking 6PPD, a common rubber antioxidant chemical found in tire preservatives, to coho salmon mortality in the Pacific Northwest. The New York TimesSeattle Times, and other media outlets covered the study.

The authors of the study published in Science concluded that the 6PPD from the tires reacts to form 6PPD-quinone, which is toxic to salmon. Although most commonly used to increase the life of tires, 6PPD is also found in other rubber consumer products, such as the seals of pressure cookers and crumb rubber used at playgrounds and soccer fields.

For the full news alert, see here. –Authors: Loren R. DunnRuss LaMotteNicole WeinsteinGraham Zorn

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October 20, 2020

Washington Continues Wide-Ranging Efforts to Address PFAS With Release of the Draft Chemical Action Plan

The Department of Ecology (Ecology) and the Department of Health have jointly released the Draft Chemical Action Plan (CAP) for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Draft CAP will be available for public comment through December 7, 2020. CAPs are advisory and do not themselves create new restrictions, but the recommendations in a CAP may lead to legislative or regulatory action. Interested stakeholders should take this opportunity to provide input to Ecology. 

For the full news alert, see here. –Authors: Allyn SternCasey Clausen

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October 5, 2020

Washington State Provides Hazardous Waste Updates for Business

On September 30, 2020, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) adopted updates to its Dangerous Waste Regulations, Chapter 173-303 WAC. These updates go into effect on October 31, 2020. 

The updated regulations set standards for safely managing dangerous wastes. Many of the updates involve further guidance for businesses in Washington who deal with hazardous waste materials. Some of the regulations were required updates to remain consistent with EPA regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Ecology also adopted several state-initiated amendments to its rules.

The main federal rules adopted under this update are:

  • Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals and Amendments to the P075 Listing for Nicotine.

These updates apply to retail stores, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities, however, the rules do not apply to households. 

These changes were made to make Washington State rules consistent with EPA regulations. Under the EPA, while concentrated nicotine is very toxic and subject to strict regulations, over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies with low concentrations of nicotine, including patches, gum, and lozenges, will no longer be managed as an acute hazardous waste.

  • Safe Management of Recalled Airbags.

These rules apply to auto dealers, scrap recyclers, salvage yards, auto repair shops, and other small businesses that remove recalled airbags from vehicles and dispose of them.

Recalled airbags removed from vehicles are ignitable and reactive, making them extremely dangerous to handle. These rules allow for airbag waste collected to be exempt from dangerous waste regulations, as long as certain conditions are met, namely sending the waste to an airbag waste collection facility or to a RCRA permitted dangerous waste facility.

Ecology also adopted an update based on federal user fees for the electronic hazardous waste manifest system, including amendments to the manifest regulations. 

The main state-initiated amendments include:

  • Updating Biological Testing Methods for the Designation of Dangerous Waste.

Previously, biological testing in Washington State allowed for two types of testing: the static fish acute toxicity test and the acute oral rat toxicity test. Ecology has determined that the rat toxicity test is obsolete and have removed it from the regulations. 

Instead, the static fish acute toxicity test, which has been in use for over 40 years to determine whether solid waste is a dangerous waste under state regulations based on toxicity. This test does not relate to human health criteria. Updates to the regulations will allow the fish toxicity test procedures to be more efficient for labs testing these potentially dangerous wastes.

Ecology also made other clarifications and corrections to the rules, which can be viewed here. In addition to the language of the rules, Ecology provides guidance on its regulations and rule interpretations.

Most notably, in June 2020, Ecology published an updated reference guide, which summarizes the requirements for each generator category under the Dangerous Waste Regulations. Hazardous waste handlers and small business owners in Washington should review all regulations carefully to ensure they are complying with all conditions and standards for hazardous waste, even if they believe they are operating under an exemption.  –Author: Lucy Infeld

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August 26, 2020

Petition Filed to List Western Ridged Mussel as an Endangered Species

On August 18, 2020, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation filed a petition to list the western ridged mussel as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The western ridged mussel (Gonidea angulata), is found in the rivers and streams of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and Nevada, but in less than 60% of its historic range. Several populations of mussels in Washington and Oregon have recently experienced sudden die-offs, reducing populations even further. The die-offs have occurred in rivers across the region—such as the Chehalis River in Washington and the Crooked River in Oregon. The results are devastating mussel beds, often with thousands of mussels killed over the course of a single summer and spanning tens of river miles. The cause and extent of these die-offs is not well understood. Read the full article here. –Authors: Dave Weber, Ben Mathieu

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July 14, 2020

Washington Launches Expedited Voluntary Cleanup Program

Washington's Department of Ecology is now accepting applications for its new Expedited Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) under the Model Toxics Control Act. For the right site, the highly anticipated expedited VCP offers responsible parties and developers the promise of faster and more predictable cleanups. 

For the full news alert, see here. – Authors: Will Enoch, Tracy Williams, Gus Winkes

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June 19, 2020

Federal Court Vacates Nationwide Permit 48 for Local Commercial Shellfish Growers

In yet another setback for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit program, a June 11, 2020 federal court ruling vacated NWP 48 for commercial shellfish aquaculture in Washington State. Center for Food Safety v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 17-1209. This remedy ruling followed the court’s prior October 2019 decision that the Corps did not adequately consider the impacts of commercial shellfish aquaculture under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

For the full news alert, see here. –Authors: Jamie Auslander, Kirstin Gruver

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April 29, 2020

Ninth Circuit Orders EPA to Rule on NRDC Petition to Cancel Pet Use Registration for Organophosphate Pesticide

A long-running dispute between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) moved a step closer to resolution, with the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ordering EPA to either deny NRDC’s petition to cancel an organophosphate pesticide registration or initiate the cancellation process within 90 days. This opinion marks the fourth time in five years that the Ninth Circuit has issued a writ of mandamus in response to delayed federal agency action. 

For the full news alert, see hereAuthors: Dave Barker, Dan Eisenberg, Alan Sachs, Drew Silton

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April 24, 2020

EPA Finalizes Removal of Water Quality Standards Despite Pending Washington Lawsuit

In what may be the beginning of the final chapter of a long-running saga over water quality standards in Washington State (Washington), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the removal of federal human health criteria (HHC) water quality standards applicable to Washington. The agency maintains that there will not be a gap in water quality standards due to its recent approval of standards that Washington submitted to EPA in 2016. Washington contests EPA’s decision to withdraw its 2016 HHC standards and has challenged this decision in federal court. Washington will now need to decide whether to retain its 2016 standards or modify and resubmit standards to EPA for approval.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Allyn SternErika SpantonLucy Infeld

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April 1, 2020

Washington Gov. Inslee Issues Clarifications Regarding “Essential” Businesses Exempt from His “Stay-At-Home” Order

On March 31, 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a Guidance Bulletin providing important clarifications concerning which industries are considered “essential” and therefore exempt from his March 23 Proclamation requiring individuals to stay at home.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Allyn SternDave Weber

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March 25, 2020

Washington Adopts “PACER” Legislation That Will Create a Proven Source of Financing for Energy and Resiliency Retrofits in Commercial Buildings

On March 18, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2405, legislation that for the first time authorizes Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans in the State of Washington. The PACE program has been used successfully in many other states to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits on existing buildings, as well as projects in new buildings. Washington’s version of the program also permits financing for resiliency retrofits, such as retrofits for seismic safety, and is therefore referred to as “PACER,” for “Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resiliency.”

See the full news alert here. –Author: Eric Christensen

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March 24, 2020

Washington Gov. Inslee Issues “Stay-At-Home” Order to Combat Coronavirus; Critical Industries Including Energy, Chemicals, and Food Production Are Exempt

In response to the rapid spread of coronavirus in Washington, on March 23, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee issued Proclamation No. 20-25, titled “Stay Home – Stay Healthy,” which requires individuals to stay at home except to conduct essential functions such as food shopping and for employment in “essential business services.” The order also requires all “non-essential” businesses to shutter their operations. The order is effective at midnight on March 25 and expires at midnight on April 6, unless extended.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Allyn SternDave Weber, Jalyn Buckley

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January 22, 2020

Washington’s Clean Air Rule: State Supreme Court Invalidates Key Components of Climate Change Regulation 

In a much-anticipated 5-4 decision on January 16, 2020, the Washington Supreme Court decided the fate of the state’s Clean Air Rule (CAR). The Clean Air Rule, which created a cap-and-trade system for regulating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), was promulgated by the Department of Ecology (Ecology) in 2016 and was quickly challenged by a coalition of utilities and industry associations. The challengers argued successfully at the trial court that the CAR exceeded Ecology’s statutory authority by seeking to regulate “indirect emitters” that contribute to emissions by importing and distributing products like natural gas and fuel. The Washington Supreme Court agreed. Despite declaring that dramatic steps are needed to address climate change and that reducing GHG emissions was laudable, the Court determined that the ends did not justify the means used by Ecology. However, rather than vacating the entire rule, as the trial judge had done, the Court left in place the CAR as applied to “actual emitters” and remanded the case back to the trial court.

As the trial court is parsing the decision, Ecology will have to consider how, if at all, to implement the hollowed-out CAR, as “indirect emitters” represent 70 to 80 percent of the GHG emissions originally covered by the rule. The Court’s ruling also is likely to spur legislative action to provide for additional GHG reduction strategies. Finally, the ruling raises questions about the viability and scope of other regulatory efforts at the regional and local levels to control GHG emissions in Washington.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Dave WeberGus Winkes

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January 16, 2020

Seattle Launches Energy Efficiency as a Service Program, Encouraging Deep Energy Efficiency Building Retrofits

Based on the success of the Metered Energy Efficiency Transaction Structure (MEETS) developed at Seattle’s Bullitt Center, the Seattle City Council adopted an ordinance last year directing Seattle City Light (City Light) to enter into pilot projects in up to thirty commercial buildings using an “Energy Efficiency as a Service” (EEaS) contract structure modeled on MEETS. After many months of work, on January 10, 2020, City Light released the final program documents, including a Program Manual, Project Form, Power Purchase Agreement, Customer Participation Agreement, and guidelines for measurement and verification of efficiency gains. Proposals from commercial building owners wishing to participate in the EEaS are due by March 31, 2020. The City Light program will pay in the range of 7.4 to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour of metered efficiency savings with a 2% per year escalator and contracts of up to 20 years.

As the Bullitt Center experience demonstrates, the EEaS/MEETS transaction structure promises to revolutionize energy conservation in commercial buildings. It creates a new revenue stream for commercial building owners and a replicable transaction structure that will permit long-term financing of energy conservation, and much more effective retrofits than have been possible under traditional energy conservation programs.

See the full news alert here. –Author: Eric Christensen 

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December 5, 2019

MTCA: A Citizens’ Initiative Shaped by Agency Action

MTCA went into effect in March 1989. The law was the result of Initiative 97 during the 1988 election cycle. According to the initiative’s supporters, the law would create a “toxic cleanup program which will make our environment cleaner and safer, for today and tomorrow.” While the statute provides a general cleanup framework, standards for liability, and a mechanism to raise public funding, the nuts and bolts of contaminated site cleanups were left to the discretion of the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to implement through rulemaking and other agency actions.

Throughout the years, Ecology has completed several substantive rulemakings giving shape to MTCA’s basic directives to identify, inventory, rank, investigate, and remediate contaminated sites. The hundreds of pages of regulations have been supplemented by voluminous policies, procedures, and memoranda, as well as by agency practices and priorities.

Although key features of the cleanup program are fixed by statute, MTCA’s implementing regulations are fundamental to the achievements and limitations of the citizens’ initiative. The critical importance of the MTCA rules in shaping site cleanups is reflected in the extensive rulemaking activities over the last 30 years.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Tracy Williams, Gus Winkes

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November 19, 2019

Washington’s Voluntary Cleanup Program: Further Action Needed?

Washington’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), now 22 years old, has been in high demand. Between 1997 and 2015, over 5,000 sites were enrolled in the program. Under the popular program, contaminated sites may be cleaned up independently and voluntarily, with the Department of Ecology (Ecology) providing technical assistance and written opinions on the sufficiency of cleanup under MTCA. Over the last decade, the demand has resulted in long waitlists and challenges in moving a site through the program, particularly in the Puget Sound region where the real estate market has been booming.

Under the VCP, parties pay for the work of the Ecology site manager, with the goal of receiving a No Further Action (NFA) letter from the agency when the investigation and cleanup is complete. NFA letters can provide performing parties, real estate transaction participants, lenders, and other stakeholders with certainty that cleanup requirements have been met. MTCA also envisions that sites may be cleaned up without any agency involvement whatsoever. However, parties may be hesitant to pursue cleanup without agency involvement due to the value of an NFA in real estate and lending markets and concerns that truly independent cleanups will not be deemed adequate should Ecology become involved later.

See the full news alert here. - Authors: Rachel RobertsGus Winkes

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November 1, 2019

Washington's Model Toxics Control Act: Transforming Contaminated Sites into Community and Environmental Assets

MTCA has been spurring the cleanup of contaminated sites in Washington for 30 years. Since MTCA went into effect, over 7,000 sites have been cleaned up. While the workhorse statute is not going to take a rest anytime soon, with more than 6,000 sites requiring further action before closure and over 200 new sites identified each year, the citizen’s initiative already has amassed an impressive legacy.

See the full news alert here. –Author: Gus Winkes

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October 10, 2019

Washington’s Model Toxics Control Act: Thirty Years and Counting

Ask anyone about Washington’s MTCA and they will tell you it began with citizen action. MTCA started with a community-driven ballot initiative and stakeholder involvement continues to be a foundational element of the program. MTCA is an outgrowth of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). After CERCLA was passed in 1980, states were requested to identify the most contaminated sites for listing on the National Priorities List (NPL). It quickly became clear that CERCLA would not address all the Washington sites. Only a subset of sites in each state would be included on the NPL plus the federal law excluded petroleum-contaminated sites, which comprise a large percentage of the necessary cleanup work in the state.

Recognizing that a state Superfund law was necessary, the Washington Legislature began developing one in the mid-1980’s. As they continued to negotiate an acceptable bill, a coalition of environmental and labor groups used the Initiative process to develop an alternative known as Initiative 97. The two efforts proceeded in parallel. In an interesting political twist, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6085, which went into effect, but Washington voters chose Initiative 97 and SB 6085 was withdrawn. Initiative 97 was passed in 1988 and became law in 1989. The statue has been amended nearly two dozen times since then.

See the full news alert here. –Author: Allyn Stern

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September 23, 2019

Colville Tribe Requests General Stream Adjudications for Two Major Washington State Rivers

On August 30, 2019, the Colville Tribe submitted a request to the Washington State Department of Ecology seeking to quantify the Tribes’ water rights through general stream adjudications. A general stream adjudication is a judicial process to determine the extent and priority of all of the water rights associated with an entire river or stream system. The Tribe specifically asked Ecology to commence general stream adjudications for the Okanogan and Columbia Rivers. The Columbia is the longest river in Washington and forms a large part of the border between Washington and Oregon. An adjudication of the Columbia would be a massive undertaking.

Although the Tribe has long utilized water from both of these rivers, as well as through other sources, the exact amount or quantity of water subject to the Tribe’s right has not been specified. The Tribe’s request comes just a few months after Ecology completed the Yakima River general stream adjudication, which took forty-two years from initial filing until entry of the final decree. The Department of Ecology is not required to start an adjudication based on this request, however, they will consider the request and decide whether or not to act upon it. If the Department of Ecology chooses to take action on either or both rivers, the resulting adjudications could affect water rights for multiple tribes, municipal governments, countless farmers, citizens, and multiple states. – Author: Lucy Infeld

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Washington State Announces Interest in Restricting Chemicals in Certain Consumer Products

Washington State has taken its first steps towards implementing the nation’s strongest state chemicals law. This month, the Department of Ecology (Ecology) announced certain chemical-product combinations that it is studying for potential priority designation. Any such designated combinations could be subject to future restrictions or bans. Stakeholders should take advantage of this early opportunity to provide input to Ecology.

See the full update here. –Authors: Ryan Carra, Nessa Coppinger, Dave Weber

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September 12, 2019

Washington State Considers Permits for Nutrient Discharges in Puget Sound

The Washington State Department of Ecology announced that it will be accepting comments until October 21, 2019, on a preliminary determination to develop a Nutrients General Permit in the Puget Sound. These permits would apply to domestic wastewater treatment plants. The Department of Ecology is hoping to control the nutrients entering the Puget Sound marine and estuarine waters and is seeking comments to determine whether general permits would be the best tool to reduce nutrients in discharges from the domestic wastewater treatment plants. The alternate option would be to pursue the nutrient problem through individual permits.

Ecology decided to take action as a result of high levels of nutrients entering the Puget Sound from wastewater treatment plans. Excess nutrients can lead to plant and algae growth beyond normal levels. Around the country, bodies of water have suffered from excess algae growth, which stresses marine life. Other states have adopted general permits to deal with excess nutrients, focusing on trading and delayed implementation requirements to help wastewater treatment plants come into compliance with general permits. The Department of Ecology hopes to minimize problems for marine life by creating a general permit system. General permits would cover groups of dischargers with similar qualities or within a similar region and would be in addition to the water quality permits required for wastewater treatment plants to operate.

Currently, the Department of Ecology has not provided draft language for the proposed permits. However, interested parties should be aware that permits could impose new compliance requirements and may increase the risk of citizen and government enforcement. –Author: Lucy Infeld

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September 5, 2019

“Broken Link in the Chain of Liability”: MTCA Decision Highlights Intricacies of Corporate Law

Last week, in a decision highlighting the overlay of environmental and corporate law, a Washington federal district court dismissed claims seeking remediation costs, attorneys’ fees, and a declaratory judgment on liability under the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) by the current owner of a service station in Cle Elem against Chevron Corp., Chevron USA, Inc., and unnamed “predecessor companies and subsidiaries.” Short Stop Shell, LLC v. Chevron Corp., No. 1:19-cv-03103-RMP, Dkt. No. 43 (E.D. Wash. Aug. 27, 2019) (Order Granting in Part & Denying in Part Defendants’ Mot. to Dismiss & Denying Plaintiff’s Mot. for Summ. J.). The court rejected the allegation that the Chevron entities were corporate successors to Texaco, Inc., which was believed to be responsible for contamination at the service station.

The court’s findings reflect a limitation on the sweeping liability under MTCA and similar statutes, the relevance of corporate transactions in minimizing such liability, and the potential difficulty of identifying proper corporate defendants before filing lawsuits for cost recovery at contaminated sites.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Allyn Stern, Gus Winkes

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August 12, 2019

Planned Updates to Washington’s Dangerous Waste Regulations

The Washington Department of Ecology is planning several amendments to state dangerous waste regulations. The agency’s preproposal statement of inquiry released on August 2, 2019, indicates that the amendments would incorporate federal hazardous waste rules related to the management and disposal of pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter nicotine therapies, and recalled airbags and to the electronic manifest system. The amendments also would clarify recent changes to state regulations that were based on EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule and would update Ecology’s Biological Testing Methods for designating state dangerous wastes. The proposed amendments are expected to be published for comment in spring 2020 and to be adopted in fall 2020.

  • Pharmaceuticals and Nicotine Replacement Therapies. In February 2019, EPA finalized standards for managing hazardous waste pharmaceuticals for healthcare facilities and reverse distributors. The sector-specific standards are intended to address unique compliance challenges faced by the industry. The standards also limit disposal of pharmaceuticals down drains. Ecology has stated that incorporating the federal regulations would set “consistent, mandatory standards … across the nation” and “result[] in fewer toxic chemicals in … waterways.”
    Ecology also is proposing to follow EPA’s decision to remove over-the-counter nicotine therapies, such as patches, gums and lozenges, from the P075 acutely hazardous waste list, which may help retailers and pharmacies avoid regulation as larger quantity generators. 
  • Recalled Airbags. In November 2018, EPA released an interim final rule that provides a conditional exemption for airbag waste from federal hazardous waste regulations. Airbag waste may be ignitable and reactive. Ecology has noted that adopting the federal regulation would facilitate the removal of recalled Takata airbag inflators by car dealerships and salvage yards. 
  • Electronic Manifest System. Ecology is proposing to adopt EPA’s current electronic manifest rules, which were updated in January 2018. 
  • Waste Generator Rules. In January 2019, Ecology adopted a raft of rules based on EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. According to Ecology, as “the new rules are being implemented, inspectors and the public have noted mistakes and unclear language.” Ecology has not yet identified publicly the mistakes and unclear language that will be addressed in the upcoming rulemaking. 
  • Updated Biological Testing Methods. Two toxicity tests may be used for designating state dangerous waste. Ecology is planning to eliminate the acute oral rat toxicity test. The agency will update the acute fish toxicity test to make it “more usable and cost effective.”

Authors: Gus Winkes, Megan Withroder

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July 30, 2019

Ninth Circuit Strikes a Blow for PURPA: Winding Creek Solar LLC. v. Peterman

On July 29, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion in Winding Creek Solar LLC v. Peterman et al(Nos. 17-17531 & 32) strongly upholding core principles of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA), and concluding that California’s renewable energy programs fail to meet PURPA requirements. The opinion makes clear that PURPA will continue to play a major role in the expansion of renewable energy, especially for smaller projects that depend on PURPA to obtain access to electric power markets.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Dave Weber

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July 19, 2019

Washington Agencies Initiate Rulemaking Processes for Implementing Washington's New Clean Energy Legislation

On July 30, the Washington Utility and Transportation Commission (UTC) and Department of Commerce(Commerce) will initiate the lengthy process of developing administrative rules to implement the newly-enacted Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA). To meet CETA’s aggressive goals, including eliminating greenhouse-gas emitting electricity generation by 2045, the agencies charged with its implementation will need to adopt and enforce a large number of agency rules over the next several years. The process will begin with a public workshop on July 30.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Dave Weber

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July 9, 2019

New Washington Legislation Drives Energy Conservation in Commercial Buildings

As part of its comprehensive effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington, the 2019 legislature adopted a new measure, HB 1257, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Washington’s commercial building sector. The new legislation, along with three companion bills – the Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act, which requires Washington’s electric utilities to phase out greenhouse-gas emitting generation by 2045, a bill limiting emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (gases used in refrigeration and other industrial processes), and a bill encouraging electrification of Washington’s transportation system – promise to profoundly change Washington’s energy consumption patterns over the next two to three decades.

HB 1257 adopts a series of legislative changes designed to substantially improve the energy performance of commercial buildings, to encourage the conservation of natural gas and the use of renewable natural gas, and to make new commercial buildings ready for electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Dave Weber

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July 2, 2019

New Washington Legislation Steps on the Electric Vehicle Accelerator

As part of a package of bills aimed at reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, the 2019 Washington State legislature passed legislation that should accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), as well as vehicles fueled with hydrogen and other alternative fuels.

The new legislation, along with three companion bills – the Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act, which requires Washington’s electric utilities to phase out greenhouse-gas emitting generation by 2045, a bill limiting emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (gases used in refrigeration and other industrial processes), and a bill imposing new energy efficiency requirements on commercial buildings – promise to profoundly change Washington’s energy consumption patterns over the next two to three decades.

The electric vehicle legislation took a rather unusual path. Initially, the legislature adopted SHB 1512 in April, which focuses primarily on utility electrification transportation plans. A more comprehensive bill, ESSB 2042 was adopted in May and includes amendments to SB 1512, extensions of several tax credits, and new grant and education programs. Together, the bills substantially change the landscape for EVs and other alternative-fueled vehicles in Washington.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Eric Christensen, Dave Weber

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June 28, 2019

Court Finds Minimum Instream Flow Rule for the Lower Spokane Invalid

The Washington Court of Appeals, Division II, issued a decision on June 26, 2019, finding Ecology’s instream flow rule for the Lower Spokane River invalid under the state Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Ecology had adopted a minimum instream flow rule (the rule) mandating 850 cubic feet per second (cfs) on the lower Spokane River, primarily based on fish habitat analysis. This was lower than the amount desired by various recreational groups, who challenged the rule in Center for Environmental Law and Policy v. Department of Ecology, No. 51439-7-II. 

The court found that Ecology violated two prongs of the APA in issuing the rule:

  1. Ecology exceeded its rulemaking authority.
  2. Its determination was arbitrary and capricious.

First, Ecology exceeded its rulemaking authority by failing to consider all instream values, as required by the Water Resources Act (WRA). The instream values Ecology must consider under the WRA include wildlife, fish, scenic, aesthetic, and navigational values. RCW 90.54.020(3)(a). The court found that Ecology failed to consider recreational values as part of this analysis. Second, the court found that Ecology’s summary conclusion that “a flow protective of fish also protected other uses of the river” was conclusory, unsupported by the record, and was therefore arbitrary and capricious.

Now that the rule is invalidated, Ecology must go back to the drawing board in its rulemaking process. Since a minimum instream flow rule is an appropriation of water with a priority date of the rule’s effective date, RCW 90.03.345, any future minimum instream flow rule will have an even later priority date. –Author: Rachel Roberts

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June 25, 2019

Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act Establishes Aggressive Mandates for Grid Decarbonization and Renewable Energy Production

After several years of fruitless effort, Washington’s 2019 legislature passed and Governor Inslee signed the Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), which requires Washington’s electric utilities to phase out greenhouse-gas emitting generation. CETA is one of a package of bills passed by the legislature aimed at reducing Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions that includes bills limiting emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (gases used in refrigeration and other industrial processes), imposing new energy efficiency requirements on commercial buildings, and encouraging the use of electricity and alternative fuels in Washington’s transportation system.

CETA imposes three major mandates on Washington utilities, including both investor-owned and consumer-owned utilities, such as PUDs and municipal utilities. First, the legislation mandates that all coal-fired resources must be eliminated from the portfolio of generation resources used to serve Washington consumers by December 31, 2025. Second, all electricity sold at retail in Washington must be greenhouse gas (GHG) neutral by January 1, 2030. Third, all electricity sold in Washington after January 1, 2045, must be produced either from renewable resources or non-emitting generators. 

See the full news alert here. –Author: Eric Christensen

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June 20, 2019

Not So Cooperative Federalism? Washington Sues EPA Over Reversal in Long-Running Human Health Criteria Saga

On June 6, Washington filed a lawsuit challenging EPA’s May 10, 2019, decision to reverse its 2016 disapproval of Washington’s proposed Human Health Criteria (HHC) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The lawsuit represents the next chapter in the long-running saga of Washington’s HHC. The respective positions of Washington and the federal government have shifted over time, with Washington now advocating against criteria it once promoted. The potential impact of this dispute on Washington businesses is significant.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Erika Spanton, Casey Clausen

Rewetting the Ink on Washington’s Industrial Stormwater General Permit: Significant Modifications Coming Down the Pipes 

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) released the draft 2020 Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP) for public comment. The draft permit contains a number of changes from the existing ISGP, including adding two new industry groups that will require coverage (marine construction, and construction, transportation, and mining equipment rental and leasing), changing the timing of the first flush, and revising requirements for consistent attainment.

Failure to comply with all permit requirements can result in enforcement actions and/or citizen suits. Facilities can minimize risk now by becoming familiar with, and preparing for, the expected permit changes.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Erika SpantonKirstin Gruver

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June 19, 2019

Seattle's Energy Efficiency as a Service Pilot Program Promises Major Benefits for Building Owners, Utilities, and Conservation

Based on the success of the Metered Energy Efficiency Transaction Structure (MEETS) developed at Seattle’s Bullitt Center, the Seattle City Council last year adopted an ordinance directing Seattle City Light to enter into pilot projects in up to thirty buildings using an “Energy Efficiency as a Service” (EEaS) contracts modeled on MEETS. After a lengthy administrative process to develop the pilot program, City Light is now ready to roll out the EEaS pilot program. City Light is requesting interested parties to fill out a non-binding Expression of Interest by June 30. The utility expects to release a more formal project solicitation later this summer. This innovative approach to energy efficiency financing promises to unlock deeper levels of energy conservation than have been possible under standard utility incentive programs while creating a profit center for building owners and eliminating the disincentives utilities face under traditional conservation programs.

See the full news alert here. –Author: Eric Christensen

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June 18, 2019

Washington UTC Finalizes New PURPA Rules Creating New Opportunities for Renewable Energy Developers

After a lengthy administrative process, the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission (UTC) on June 12, 2019, issued an order adopting final rules that implement the must-purchase requirements of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) in Washington. The new rules will go into effect in July. Together with the recently-passed Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act, substantial new opportunities for renewable energy development in Washington are likely to be created.

The new rules substantially revise Washington’s implementation of PURPA Section 210, which requires regulated utilities to purchase the output of “qualifying facilities” (QFs) – renewable generators with 80 megawatts (MW) of capacity or less and cogeneration facilities – at “avoided cost” rates. Until now, Washington’s PURPA rules were skeletal, and PURPA projects were nearly non-existent in the state, despite vigorous QF activity in neighboring states.

The new rules improve the existing rules in several key areas, including contract length, legally enforceable obligation (LEO), standard contracts for small QFs, defined avoided costs, and negotiation framework. The new rules create a major opportunity for renewable energy developers in Washington and a means for the state’s utilities to meet the aggressive mandates for a carbon-free generation that have now been established by the Washington legislature.

See the full news alert here. –Author: Eric Christensen

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June 5, 2019

Washington Legislature Provides Spark for Forest Management

Washington State, having felt the burn from Washington’s recent unseasonably hot summers, has already begun preparations for this year’s wildfire season. In May, Governor Jay Inslee declared an expanded drought emergency covering over 25 watersheds due to low snowpack and predicted drier conditions throughout the summer. Last year, there were 1,732 fires reported in Washington with over $170,000,000 spent in total firefighting costs. In response to the number and intensity of wildfires experienced last season, the legislature took steps to prepare for future wildfire seasons.

On May 8, 2019, House Bill 1784 was signed into law. The bill directs the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to prioritize forest health. Specifically, the bill requires DNR to “prioritize, to the maximum extent practicable…forest health treatments that are strategically planned to serve the dual benefits of forest health maximization while providing geographically planned tools for wildfire response.” To implement this mandate, the DNR “shall attempt to locate and design forest health treatments in such a way as to provide wildfire response personnel with strategically located treated areas to assist with managing fire response.” The law also provides the DNR with the authority to issue burning permits for wildfire-reduction purposes on lands where the DNR does not have fire protection responsibility. For example, the DNR may enter into cooperative agreements with local fire protection agencies to issue burning permits for reducing wildfire risk within the urban growth area.

Wildfire prevention is at the forefront of many legislator’s minds both in Washington and along the West Coast. Similar bipartisan bills are being proposed along the west coast, as well as in Congress, aiming to tackle topics ranging from wildfire prevention funding to landscape analyses and resource protection. –Authors: Kirstin Gruver, Olivia Parish

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May 22, 2019

Washington State Passes Climate Bill to Restrict Certain Uses of HFCs

Following California’s lead, Washington State has revived, at the state level, federal limits on greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and is contemplating additional restrictions in the future. HFCs are synthetic gases that are used in a variety of applications, but mainly to replace ozone-depleting substances in aerosols, foams, refrigeration, and air-conditioning. In late April, Washington’s legislature passed HB 1112. Governor Inslee signed the bill into law on May 7, 2019. The core section of HB 1112 adopts as state law the content of EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Rules 20 and 21 (40 CFR Part 82, Appx. U and V) before they were largely vacated by the D.C. Circuit in two decisions. 

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Russ LaMotte, Felicia Barnes, Aron Schnur

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May 13, 2019

Water From a Glacier Reaches the Ocean Eventually: Final Decree Issued in the Yakima Water Adjudication after 42 Years

The longest-running (and, for most of its history, the only) water adjudication in Washington State has come to an end. On May 9, 2019, Yakima Superior Court Judge James F. Gavin entered the Final Decree in Department of Ecology v. James Acquavella et al. This 42-year-old case, originally filed in 1977, adjudicated more than 4,000 claims to surface water in the Yakima basin across 31 watersheds. The water rights in 30 of these watersheds, termed “subbasins,” were fully adjudicated in Conditional Final Orders issued over a decade ago, save for one watershed–– Subbasin 23.

See the full news alert here. –Author: Rachel Roberts

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May 10, 2019

Enhancements to Washington's Voluntary Cleanup Program Around the Corner

Last month, with unanimous bipartisan support, Washington legislators passed a bill that will expedite efforts to clean up contaminated sites around the state. The bill, which Governor Inslee signed on April 23, 2019, and goes into effect on July 28, 2019, confirms the Department of Ecology’s authority to implement and recover costs for a program providing accelerated technical advice and assistance, including no further action determinations, under MTCA’s Voluntary Cleanup Program. The law also authorizes Ecology to waive costs under the new program for affordable housing projects after considering the proponent’s ability to pay and the public benefit of the redevelopment.

Ecology proposed the legislation to address the large number of contaminated sites on the Voluntary Cleanup Program waitlist. As of December 2018, the waitlist included over 150 sites. About 800 sites in total were enrolled in the program at the time.

For additional background information, please see a related alert here. –Authors: Tracy Williams, Gus Winkes

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May 9, 2019

Washington State Enacts Sweeping Law to Regulate PFAS and Other Chemicals in Consumer Products and Packaging

The strongest state chemicals bill in the country was signed into Washington state law this week. The law empowers the state Department of Ecology to restrict the use of chemicals in virtually any consumer product and its packaging. The department is first directed to focus on chemicals listed in the law – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); phthalates; certain flame retardants; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and phenolic compounds – and then to identify other chemicals for potential restriction.

See the full news alert here. –Authors: Ryan Carra, Nessa Coppinger, Dave Weber

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May 3, 2019

Cooke Aquaculture to Pay Full Penalty for Cypress Island Net Pen Collapse

On August 19, 2017, one of Cooke Aquaculture’s largest facilities in Washington—a ten-cage net pen off Cypress Island—collapsed, resulting in the release of 243,000 to 263,000 non-native Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. Cooke Aquaculture is the largest farmed-salmon producer in North America, and at the time operated eight net pen facilities in Washington. A multi-agency investigation ensued. In January 2018, Ecology issued Cooke a $332,000 penalty for water quality permit violations related to the Cypress Island collapse.

Cooke originally appealed the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board. On Monday, April 29 Ecology announced the parties had reached a settlement. Under the terms of the settlement:

  • Cooke will pay the full $332,000 penalty.
  • Eighty percent ($265,600) of the penalty will go to a regional salmon enhancement or habitat restoration project.
  • Twenty percent ($66,400) of the penalty will go to Ecology’s Coastal Protection Fund, which supports grants to locally sponsored projects that restore or enhance the natural environment.

While the penalty dispute is now resolved, the direct and indirect aftermath of the Cypress Island collapse is not. Cooke faces uncertainty regarding pending permit renewal applications, an undecided Clean Water Act citizen suit resulting from the collapse set for trial in December 2019, and a statutory mandate to phase out Atlantic salmon farming in Washington by 2022. –Authors: Erika SpantonKirstin Gruver

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April 25, 2019

Washington State Joins Citizen Suit Challenging Navy Ship Decommissioning Under the Clean Water Act

On April 23, 2019, a federal judge allowed the State of Washington to intervene in a Clean Water Act citizen suit filed by Puget Soundkeeper and the Suquamish Tribe against the U.S. Navy. The dispute centers on the Navy’s cleaning of a decommissioned former aircraft carrier, the Ex-USS Independence, at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, near Bremerton, before towing the former carrier to Brownsville, Texas for dismantling.

The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is an existing Superfund site. According to the Attorney General’s office, the area does not meet standards for human recreation, fish consumption, or protection of aquatic life. During the most recent Five-Year Review of the site, EPA disagreed with the Navy’s determination that the remedy at one of the operable areas within the site was protective in the short term.

The State and the plaintiffs allege that the Navy scraped the 50 dump trucks’ worth of debris from the hull of the Ex-USS Independence while it was docked at the shipyard, without implementing any measures to control debris. This debris may contain hazardous paint residue. The State based its decision to join the case on its review of sediment data before and after the Navy cleaned the hull. Like the plaintiffs, the State brings a claim under the Clean Water Act, but it also brings a claim under the Washington Pollution Control Act, which does not have a citizen suit provision. The case is Puget Soundkeeper Alliance v. U.S. Department of the Navy, Case No. 3:17-cv-05458-RBL.

To read the full complaint, click here. –Author: Rachel Roberts

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April 12, 2019

EPA Looks to Reverse Water Quality Toxics Rule (Or Not)?

The Trump Administration’s EPA announced plans to reverse an Obama-era rule, which set stringent water quality standards for almost 200 pollutants in Washington State. The 2016 Water Toxics Rule focused on protecting Native American communities, where high levels of fish consumption occur throughout the state. The rule changed the fish consumption rate, which determines cancer risk through exposure to chemicals in locally caught fish. Industry groups and Washington State Republicans argue that the rule was unjustified and too restrictive in raising the state’s fish consumption rate. Industry successfully petitioned the EPA in 2017 to reverse course. 

Washington State’s Department of Ecology is pushing back against the decision, saying that the EPA should have consulted with the state and tribes before announcing the change. The EPA opened a public comment period for the proposal on April 8 to reconsider the Water Toxics Rule. However, on April 11, the EPA closed the public comment period and issued a statement that the authority to publish the memorandum on reversing the Water Toxics Rule and open a public comment period was given erroneously. It is unclear whether the EPA will continue to pursue a reversal of the rule.

To read more about Washington State’s comments, please visit Ecology’s website here. –Author: Lucy Infeld

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April 10, 2019

National Marine Fisheries Service to Take Fresh Look at the Effect of Pacific Ocean Salmon Fisheries on Ailing Orcas

The declining populations of Southern Resident killer whales, also known as Orcas, have been a subject of much scientific and public interest. Washington State’s Orca Task Force identified three key threats to the population: (1) toxic chemicals; (2) disturbance from vessel noise and traffic; and (3) declining Chinook salmons run, which are a primary food source for the whales. See the Task Force’s Report here. The survival of the whales is therefore connected to some of the most pressing environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest. Government measures to protect the population are certain to have cross-cutting implications across the region. For example, HB 1578 is a pending bill reducing threats to Southern Resident killer whales by improving the safety of oil transportation, and HB 1579 another pending bill would implement recommendations of the Orca Task Force related to increasing chinook abundance. Each bill is waiting to be debated on the floor by the second chamber.

A scientific consensus is developing that salmon availability is the primary cause of the whales’ decline. As with the whales, the decline of salmon populations has many causes. One pressure on salmon populations that will be getting a new look as far it contributes to the decline of the whales is ocean salmon fisheries managed under the Pacific Coast Fishery Management Plan. In 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a biological opinion finding that the fisheries were not likely to jeopardize the whale population. In a guidance letter dated March 6, 2019, the agency committed to re-initiate consultation on the fisheries’ effects on the whales in light of the “substantial amount of new information” about the effects of the abundance of salmon on whales. Less than a month later, environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the agency based on its failure to reinitiate consultation. Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. National Marine Fisheries Service, et al, 2:19-cv-00487, (W.D.Wa. Apr. 3, 2019). –Author: Casey Clausen

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March 19, 2019

Washington Department of Ecology Proposes Increase to Water Quality Permit Fees

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) has proposed a rule amendment to the Water Quality Permit Fees. Water quality permit programs manage when, where, and how water enters the environment. Under Washington law, Ecology is required to use the permit fees to cover program implementation costs. Individuals who have a wastewater or stormwater discharge permit are required to pay a permit fee. The type of activity dictates the fee amount. Some examples of the industries subject to the permit fee include:

  • Aquatic pest control.
  • Combined industrial waste treatment.
  • Concentrated animal feeding operations.
  • Pulp, paper, and paper board operations.

The entire fee schedule can be found here.

Industries that operate within multiple fee categories are charged depending on the category with the highest fee. The collected fees fund the Water Quality Wastewater and Stormwater Discharge Permit programs. To illustrate, some of the collected fees are used to fund inspections, monitoring and evaluating compliance with permits, or reviewing plans and documents directly related to pretreatment programs.

The proposed rule is intended to account for inflation and will allow Ecology to recover expenses in operating and managing the water quality permit programs. Additionally, the proposed rule includes a proposed fee for the winery general permit, a new permit that will take effect in July 2019. Finally, as part of the proposed rule amendment, Ecology is proposing a 75 percent reduction in permit fees for facilities that engage in market research and development of processes that reduce pollution.

Public comment closes on April 30, 2019. Ecology’s public notice can be found here. –Author: Kirstin Gruver 

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March 6, 2019

A Trickle of Movement on New Storage for the Yakima Basin

Like the river on a hot day in August, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project (YRBWEP) is a slow-moving process. Congress originally authorized YRBWEP in 1979, with major amendments in 1984 and 1994. Congress has now passed the first amendments to YRBWEP of this century in the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which is awaiting President Trump’s signature. These newest amendments would provide additional authorization for Phase III of YRBWEP. Where Phase I and II focused on fish passage and water conservation, respectively, Phase III focuses on increasing storage capacity for the Yakima Basin.

For an overview of the new amendments, see the full news alert here. –Author: Rachel Roberts

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February 28, 2019

Proposed Legislation: Changes to MTCA’s Voluntary Cleanup Program

For years, Washington’s program for independent site cleanups has been working through a backlog of contaminated sites, particularly in areas of the state where redevelopment interest is high. This year, with HB 1290 in the House, and its companion bill, SB 5285 in the Senate, the Washington legislature is proposing a few tweaks to the Department of Ecology’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP). Similar to the considerations motivating the 2017 law giving authority to the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency to oversee cleanup and provide opinion letters for qualifying petroleum-contaminated sites, the proposed tweaks to the VCP are intended to provide additional administrative options for faster cleanups. The legislation contains several other policy goals, including increased access to affordable housing through brownfield redevelopment. The legislation was sought by Ecology.

The proposed legislation is largely a re-packaging of existing authority. However, new components include:

  • An “expedited process” for Ecology review of submissions in the VCP, including NFA letter requests.
  • Clarification of Ecology’s ability to recover costs for administering the VCP, including the “expedited process” alternative.
  • A voluntary cleanup account for handling funds collected under the “expedited process” program.
  • Criteria for when Ecology may waive VCP fees, including, for example, when a “model remedy” is properly deployed at the site, when the site is “used for affordable housing,” and based on the applicant’s “ability to pay.”
  • Measures, including property liens, which would prevent “windfalls” if Ecology waives costs.

The bills’ sponsors have indicated that they would like to see Ecology implement the new program expeditiously. The bills would authorize Ecology to “implement the cost waiver and expedited process … through interpretive guidance pending adoption of rules.” If the bills become law, it could provide an attractive option for entities stalled in or contemplating the VCP and may promote the cleanup of properties that otherwise would remain underutilized. –Author: Gus Winkes 

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February 25, 2019

Ecology Updates Permits Regulating Atlantic Salmon Farming until Ban Takes Effect in 2022

Last year, the Washington Legislature passed a bill that phased out Atlantic salmon net-pen farming in Washington’s marine waters by 2022. This follows the failure of a commercial net pen in Washington waters where an estimated 243,000 to 263,000 Atlantic salmon escaped. Until then, fish farmers are required to have water quality permits to operate the farms. The Washington State Department of Ecology recently updated the draft water quality permits required for fish farming. As part of the update, Ecology added new requirements farmers must follow, such as, increasing underwater video monitoring of net pens; conducting inspections to assess structural integrity of the net pens; submitting inspection reports certified by a qualified marine engineer to Ecology; improving net cleaning and maintenance procedures to prevent biofouling and fish escape; requiring the permittee to develop site-specific response plans in the event of a fish release, and to conduct and participate in preparedness training; requiring improved maintenance of the net pens; and maintaining contact information to notify area tribes in the event of a fish release.

Public comment closes on February 25, 2019. Ecology’s public notice can be found here, and fish numbers can be found here. –Author: Kirstin Gruver 

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February 20, 2019

Port of Ridgefield Sues Railroad, Takes Nothing Under MTCA

Earlier this month, a federal district court issued a decision allocating cleanup costs at a contaminated site in Clark County, Washington. The opinion illustrates several challenges with fairly apportioning response costs and also demonstrates important strategic maneuvering that often occurs among responsible parties, regulatory agencies, and public officials at complex sites.

For an overview of the decision in Port of Ridgefield v. Union Pac. Railroad Co., No. cv-14-6024-RBL (W.D. Wash. Feb. 7, 2019), see the full news alert here. –Authors: Tracy WilliamsGus Winkes 

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February 14, 2019

EPA Halts Washington State Plan to Regulate Temperatures at Federal Dams

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pulled back permits for federal dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers that were under review by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology hoped to use their review as a chance to enforce temperature regulations on the dams. These regulations were intended to cool water temperatures linked to killing salmon in the rivers by requiring federal dams to regulate the temperature of water in dams and ensure they do not exceed the state temperature limit of sixty-eight degrees. 

The EPA, however, announced that it was pulling the draft permits under Ecology review, effectively stopping the state’s attempt at enforcing temperature requirements under Washington water quality standards. Ecology still hopes to require temperature regulations at dams and asked the EPA to explain its decision. The EPA’s Region 10 spokesperson stated that the draft permits needed further internal review and that Ecology’s permit review will be reinitiated after EPA completes its internal review. 

For more information, see the February 6 update below. –Author: Lucy Infeld 

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February 6, 2019

New Temperature Regulations Proposed for Federal Dams in Columbia and Snake Rivers 

According to a report published by the U.S. EPA, temperatures in portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers have increased by almost thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit since 1960. The EPA believes that climate change and dams are responsible for the change in temperature, which can become so high in the summer months that they kill migrating salmon. Currently, Washington State has an uppermost temperature limit of sixty-eight degrees in state water. However, federal dams have not had to comply with this state-based requirement. 

The threat of rising water temperatures to salmon and Orcas throughout the Northwest, as well as several lawsuits by non-profits and citizen groups, have pushed the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) to take a more active role in the regulation of dams and requirements for water temperature. On January 30, 2019, in response to EPA’s report, Ecology initiated a public comment period on proposed temperature regulations for federal dams. 

While Ecology believes that this new regulation would benefit salmon, it does not provide clear guidance or specifics on how dam operators would comply with the new temperature requirements. Additionally, climate change causes a greater problem for dam operators who are already working to moderate temperatures. Experts at NOAA and within the industry question how much more can be done in the face of climate change. 

Public comment closes on February 19, 2019. Ecology’s public notice can be found here. –Author: Lucy Infeld 

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January 29, 2019

Washington Adopts Rules to Implement California’s Auto Emissions Standards 

The Washington State Department of Ecology has updated its rules to match revisions to California’s motor vehicle emission standards for greenhouse gases (GHGs) approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on September 28, 2018. These changes include: (1) clarifying that automobile makers who want to sell cars and light-duty trucks in California (and by extension in Washington) for model years 2021 through 2025 would need to meet the existing standards agreed to by California, the federal government, and automakers in 2012; and (2) updated requirements for onboard diagnostic systems to match CARB’s 2015 rulemaking in Section 1968.2 and Section 1968.5. Ecology’s Rulemaking web page is available here. –Author: Dave Weber 

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October 23, 2018

Litigation Turns Up the Heat on Agencies to Protect Salmon in the Pacific Northwest

A pair of court developments in the Western District of Washington places pressure on EPA and the Washington Department of Ecology to issue new water standards for temperature, sediment, and ammonia to protect salmon in Northwest waters. 

On October 17, 2018, in Columbia Riverkeeper v. Pruitt, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held EPA responsible for the absence of enforceable temperature limits in the Columbia and lower Snake Rivers. This is an unusual holding because usually, states are responsible for developing such standards, known as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). Under Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d), states identify “impaired” waters and develop TMDLs to help repair them. Heat is an important pollutant for fish species like salmon, and both Washington and Oregon have listed the Columbia and Snake Rivers as impaired waters in part due to thermal pollution. In the normal course of events, states develop TMDLs, and EPA’s only role is to approve or disapprove them based on specific criteria. 

In Columbia Riverkeeper, the Western District of Washington ruled that EPA, not the states, must develop temperature TMDLs for the Columbia and lower Snake Rivers. The court reached this unique but unsurprising decision based on the history of negotiations and agreements between Oregon, Washington, and EPA. In these negotiations, EPA agreed that it, not the states, would develop temperature TMDLs for these specific rivers. The court held that these agreements, including a Memorandum of Agreement issued in 2000, meant that the states had constructively submitted a “no TMDL” for temperature, and thus it was EPA’s burden to act on those constructive submissions. The court gave EPA thirty days to approve or disapprove this constructively submitted “no TMDL,” although the court indicated that it did “not see how EPA can approve the constructively submitted TMDL consistent with its obligations under the CWA.” If disapproved, EPA has thirty days after disapproval to issue a new TMDL for temperature on these waterways. See U.S.C. § 1313(d)(2). 

For more information, see the full news alert here. –Authors: Felicia Barnes, Rachel Roberts

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