Tribes Cautious About Governor’s Toxics Reduction Plan (and other coverage)

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission released a statement yesterday about the governor’s water quality proposal:

Tribes Cautious About Governor’s Toxics Reduction Plan

Treaty Indian tribes in western Washington have mixed feelings regarding Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement today about the state’s fish consumption and cancer risk rates used to determine water quality standards.

Tribes are generally supportive of Inslee’s move to increase the state’s fish consumption rate to 175 grams per day, but are deeply concerned about a proposed tenfold increase in the cancer risk rate.

The current cancer risk rate provides a one in one million chance of getting cancer from consuming fish and shellfish containing toxics from state waters. Inslee’s proposal would lower that rate to one in 100,000, but he hopes to mitigate the loss of protection through a toxics reduction effort that would require state legislative action.

“This is a political decision, not one based on sound science,” said Lorraine Loomis, vice chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and fisheries manager for the Swinomish Tribe. “While a toxics control effort is needed, it is not an effective replacement for strong water quality rules and standards. We cannot continue with a pollution-based economy.”

Tribes also are concerned that Inslee’s plan will further delay implementation of revised water quality standards. Even with swift legislative approval, it would be next year before new standards are put forth for review.

“We’ve been working with the state on this issue for more than 20 years,” Loomis said. We need action.” She said the tribes will be meeting together and with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to examine Inslee’s proposal and consider their options.

The commission also collected press coverage of the announcement here. You can read some of the better coverage below.

The Stranger (Governor Inslee Tries to Have It Both Ways On Protecting Washingtonians From Cancer, Pleases No One):

Bottom line? People who fish and eat fish regularly, including tribal members and immigrant and minority communities, want Washington’s forty-year-old formula for determining clean water standards to be updated and made as strong as possible, including bumping one variable in the equation—the assumed fish consumption rate—up to the level of Oregon’s: 175 grams per day. (Wondering what 175 grams looks like? Picture a fillet of salmon.)

Inslee did that today, which is what you’d want from someone labeled by many as the country’s “greenest governor.”

Here’s where he failed to live up to that title, however: the governor is also proposing to set another variable in the equation, called the excess cancer rate, at a level where, according to the governor’s office, “if a person were to eat a 175-gram serving of fish from Washington waters every day for 70 years, he or she would have a 1-in-100,000 chance of developing cancer.” Clean water advocates were pushing for a one-in-a-million chance.

The Seattle Times:

Inslee’s proposal was greeted with mixed reaction by tribes, environmentalists and industry.

“This is a big compromise for us,” said Russell Hepfer, vice chairman of the tribal council for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, whose members, he said, eat at least 500 grams of fish and shellfish every day, not 175.

But at least Inslee got the ball rolling by proposing standards for discussion — unlike the previous two governors, Hepfer said. “We have been dealing with this for so many years.”

The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, with other environmental groups and fishing advocates, filed suit against the EPA last October to force the state to issue updated standards.

“I think some pieces [of Inslee’s proposal] are really exciting,” said Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance executive director. “Going farther upstream to get at sources, to products that contain these toxic chemicals, is long overdue.”

He didn’t like setting levels for some pollutants through the water-quality standard that would be no more protective than today for some chemicals. “We need to do better,” Wilke said.

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