This session I’m sponsoring legislation to refocus use of our state’s toxic clean-up account. The bill would increase the number of sites cleaned and promote private-sector job creation by emphasizing the renewal of lands with commercial potential. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday, January 23 in the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, which I chair.
A healthy environment and a vibrant economy are often portrayed as being conflicting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With this bill we have a unique opportunity to promote economic growth and create jobs while protecting the environment.
The state’s Model Toxics Control Act was created by a voter initiative in 1988 and is funded by a “hazardous substance tax,” primarily on petroleum products. In the current two-year budget cycle, revenue generated by the hazardous substance tax totaled $352 million. In recent years, the account has been a frequent target of diversions, with $233 million shifted to general government spending since 2009 alone.
The truth is that MTCA in its current form has lost focus of its core mission. In the previous budget cycle, a vast majority of the funds generated by the tax went to purposes other than toxic clean-up. Meanwhile, over 1,900 toxic sites in our state are awaiting clean-up while the fund created by voters dedicated to that work is repeatedly being raided. That’s not acceptable to me. We should refocus MTCA on its original purpose and give these toxic sites new life.
We all want to be good stewards of our natural resources and leave our children with a better planet than the one we inherited. This bill ensures a better way forward by improving our environment and creating economic opportunities.
The bill remains a work in progress and is being heard in draft form to ensure consensus-building can continue. The hearing will take place Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. and can be viewed at www.tvw.org.