Toxic cleanup bill to create jobs, protect environment clears committee hurdle

A bill I sponsored to create jobs and protect the environment by refocusing the use of the state’s toxic cleanup account was approved today by the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.

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 from the hazardous-substance tax is expected to reach $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.

MTCA has value, but its core mission been compromised by all the funding that’s been channeled to things that are far-removed from toxic cleanup. Putting the focus back on renewing toxic sites will improve the environment and put people to work on the 1,900 sites around the state awaiting remediation.

This measure represents real reform of state government and the way we approach toxic cleanup. The fact it’s moving forward underscores the importance of the new bipartisan coalition in the Senate. Ideas are now being considered that wouldn’t have seen the light of day in previous years.

In addition to Ericksen’s bill, the committee also approved a separate measure by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, to accelerate renewal of hazardous waste sites through streamlined permitting and increased local control for cleanup. Ericksen voted in support of that measure.

Ericksen’s measure, Senate Bill 5296, and Ranker’s legislation, Senate Bill 5201, now move to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration.