Governor engages and NWEA drops out of state process

A couple of busy days in the fish consumption rate debate. First, the governor convenes a group of advisers (from Investigate West):

In a letter to the state Ecology Department (embedded below), Inslee announced his intention to organize an informal group of advisers from local governments, Indian tribes and businesses. Environmental groups, notably, are not mentioned. The process is to kick off this month, and Inslee told Ecology Director Maia Bellon that by late this year he will “provide you with guidance” that will allow new rules to be proposed in early 2014.

It remains to be seen whether Indian tribes will agree to participate. Tribal interests and nearly all environmental groups – with the exception of Portland-based Northwest Environmental Advocates – have been boycotting the two-year Ecology “stakeholder process” set in motion by last summer’s decision.

Tribes instead took their case to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had repeatedly warned Ecology in the past that the current estimate of fish consumption is unrealistically low. The Indian tribes cited treaties that guarantee them the right to fish in Washington waters – rights they say are abridged if the fish is not safe enough to eat on a regular basis.

Also, Northwest Environmental Advocates announced they’re dropping out of the formal process (also from Investigate West):

On the heels of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s jumping into the fray over water-pollution standards, which we reported yesterday, the only environmental group still cooperating with the state Ecology Department on the issue announced today it is dropping out, citing what Northwest Environmental Advocates called “Orwellian doublespeak” used to cover up huge proposed loopholes. The group also charged that “Ecology has bent over backward to satisfy pollution sources concerned about having to reduce their toxic discharges to Washington’s waters.”

NWEA Executive Director Nina Bell said in an interview that she already was drafting a letter of resignation from Ecology’s process when she heard about Inslee’s forming a panel of advisers that did not include environmental groups.

“Excluding organizations that represent the health interests of Washington’s citizens and who have expertise in the Clean Water Act and pollution control is both stunning and insulting,” said the NWEA resignation letter to Maia Bellon, the Ecology director.

The move by NWEA was also covered by the Salish Sea Blog.

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