In a bipartisan vote today the Senate approved a bill I proposed to create jobs and improve Washington’s environment through the establishment of the Environmental Legacy Stewardship Account. Senate Bill 5296 is a key component of my legislative agenda of job creation and environmental improvement.
The state’s toxic-cleanup program, which was established in 1988, is supported by the state’s hazardous substance tax. Tax dollars flowing into the account have in recent years made it become a frequent target of diversions to the general fund. Meanwhile cleanups have lagged, leaving as many as 5,000 sites around the state awaiting action.
Creation of the Environmental Legacy Stewardship Account would refocus the state’s toxic-cleanup program on its original goals of funding the cleanup and prevention of hazards around the state. Monies from the state’s hazardous-substance tax in excess of $108 million per year would be deposited into the account and dedicated to toxic cleanup. It’s anticipated that around $150 million would be deposited in the account from the tax for the two-year budget cycle that begins July 1.
Funds from the account would be used on capital projects that meet innovation and efficiency standards spelled out in law, and would have to be specifically approved by the Legislature. An emphasis would be put on renewing lands with commercial or industrial potential, and the creation of model remedies would expedite timelines for cleanup projects.
SB 5296 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration and is exempt from legislative deadlines by virtue of the fact that it is considered necessary to implement the Senate operating budget plan.