Monthly Archives: March 2018

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    Van De Wege legislation to prohibit deadly chemicals becomes law

Van De Wege legislation to prohibit deadly chemicals becomes law

March 27th, 2018|

Legislation to prohibit the sale of firefighting foam that contains chemicals deadly to people and destructive to the environment was signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“This will limit contamination and exposure to these persistent chemicals, which build up in the environment and in our bodies,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim and the sponsor of Senate Bill 6413. “This is especially important for pregnant women and young children, as these chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system and impede fetal development.”

The chemicals, known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS), are commonly used to help fight fires at airfields and other places — including during frequent firefighter training drills — where petroleum-based fires pose a risk. PFAS have been found in wells used for drinking water on Whidbey Island, Issaquah, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and Airway Heights near Fairchild Air Force Base. The chemicals also exist in equipment used by firefighters.

Studies in animals show that exposure to PFAS can affect liver function, reproductive hormones, development of offspring, and mortality. However, PFAS toxicity in humans is less understood, and exposure may be linked to high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Beginning in July of 2020, Van De Wege’s bill:

  • Prohibits the sale, manufacture, and distribution of firefighting foam that has PFAS intentionally added;
  • Requires sellers of firefighting personal protective equipment containing PFAS to notify purchasers of the equipment; and
  • Punishes violations of the act with civil penalties up to $5,000 for a first offense and up to $10,000 for subsequent violations.

“The number-one cause of death of firefighters is cancer,” Van De Wege said. “By phasing out this foam, we can protect groundwater and the health of firefighters who regularly use this foam to suppress fires.”

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    Van De Wege: Wildfire resistance law will save property, lives

Van De Wege: Wildfire resistance law will save property, lives

March 21st, 2018|

Legislation signed into law this month will reduce the spiraling cost of fighting wildfires, limit damages to homes in wildfire-prone areas, and very possibly save lives, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, said today.

Van De Wege’s Senate Bill 6109 supplements local building codes for roofs, siding, porches and vehicle access for homes to make them more fire resistant and provide better egress for emergency vehicles.

“These kinds of changes will make homes less likely to catch fire, reduce the risks and hazards to firefighters, and save taxpayer dollars by reducing state wildfire costs,” Van De Wege said. “In some cases, these changes can mean the difference between life and death for firefighters and homeowners.”

The legislation was supported by the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters, the Washington State Fire Chiefs, and the Building Industry Association of Washington.

“These modest, common-sense standards can make a big difference,” Van De Wege said. “They will increase safety and limit damages when wildfires occur.”

Package of timber/jobs bills moves through Legislature

March 2nd, 2018|

Three bills and a key budget proviso would improve prospects for job growth on the Olympic Peninsula and in rural and coastal areas across the state, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, said today.

The proviso secured by Van De Wege mandates that the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cannot pursue policies that inhibit its fiduciary responsibility to manage state lands responsibly and in ways that generate revenue from the rights to harvest timber on state trust lands. Those revenues, primarily dedicated to education, are critical to state and local governments but are limited by restrictions to protect endangered species like the marbled murrelet.

“We don’t want to do anything to threaten the sustainability of the marbled murrelet or any other endangered species, but we also don’t want to squander opportunities to create jobs in ways that won’t harm wildlife populations,” Van De Wege said. “We need to track the recovery of species like the murrelet to make sure we’re not overlooking improved opportunities to create jobs our communities badly need.”

Since 1997, the state has restricted harvesting on 176,000 acres of state trust lands to protect the marbled murrelet pending long-term conservation strategy. DNR is currently determining how many thousands of acres can be opened to harvesting without harming the marbled murrelet population. The proviso reconciles aspects of an earlier proviso by Van De Wege that encountered opposition.

“The studies show that we can harvest additional acreage, creating family-wage jobs and boosting our local economies, without endangering the marbled murrelet population,” Van De Wege said. “We can strike a winning balance between healthy habitats and good jobs.”

Meanwhile, House Bill 2285, a companion bill to legislation sponsored in the Senate by Van De Wege, passed the Senate today and directs the department to annually assess the effects on state revenues from conservation strategies developed by the state Board of Natural Resources. The House version is sponsored by Van De Wege 24th District seatmate, Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, and is also supported by their third seatmate, Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness.

In addition to the economic analysis, the department’s annual reports to the Legislature must include recommendations in the following areas:

  • actions that support maintaining or increasing jobs in affected rural communities;
  • strategies to ensure no net loss of revenues to the trust beneficiaries;
  • additional means of financing county services; and
  • additional non-regulatory conservation measures that provide economic benefits to rural communities.

Another piece of legislation sponsored by Van De Wege, SB 6140, would create jobs in rural communities by directing DNR to evaluate state land, forestland, revenue streams and related management methods to make it easier to complete common-sense land swaps and help spur mill activity.

A third bill that Van De Wege voted for earlier for this session, SB 5450, would add cross-laminated timber to the state building code, making it easier for businesses to incorporate timber dependent technology in residential and commercial construction. In addition to creating a stronger market for wood, the cross-laminated timber provides an environmental benefit by sequestering carbon.

SB 5450 and HB 2285 passed both chambers and await only the governor’s signature to become law; both have the support of Chapman and Tharinger in addition to Van De Wege. SB 6140 passed the Senate, but awaits passage by the House. The budget that contains Van De Wege’s proviso passed both chambers but in different versions that must be reconciled before a final budget can be sent to the governor.