June 12, 2013

Citing “Orwellian doublespeak” on water pollution, last environmental group drops out of state process

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On the heels of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s jumping into the fray over water-pollution standards, which we reported yesterday, the only environmental group still cooperating with the state Ecology Department on the issue announced today it is dropping out, citing what Northwest Environmental Advocates called “Orwellian doublespeak” used to cover up huge proposed loopholes. The group also charged that “Ecology has bent over backward to satisfy pollution sources concerned about having to reduce their toxic discharges to Washington’s waters.”

NWEA Executive Director Nina Bell said in an interview that she already was drafting a letter of resignation from Ecology’s process when she heard about Inslee’s forming a panel of advisers that did not include environmental groups.

“Excluding organizations that represent the health interests of Washington’s citizens and who have expertise in the Clean Water Act and pollution control is both stunning and insulting,” said the NWEA resignation letter to Maia Bellon, the Ecology director.

“Our absence will leave the group without any non-polluting participants,” the letter notes. (Read the full letter below.)

Bell said so-called “implementation tools” proposed by Ecology are really a cover to allow business as usual to carry on without tightening pollution standards. For example, in addition to considering giving factories and sewage-treatment plants decades to comply, the agency has said it might even back down from its longstanding benchmark of allowing no more than one case of cancer in every million people exposed to a pollution source, her letter said.

In an interview, Bell told InvestigateWest she felt compelled to resign because, “What Ecology has done is pandered to the pollution sources and it’s done this in a series of actions in which it has has opened the door wider and wider to completely destroying Washington’s ability to control water pollution.”

Ecology spokeswoman Sandi Peck said the department did not have any immediate comment.

Update 4:32 p.m.:  Peck got back to us to say that Bellon had read NWEA’s resignation letter (on her cell phone — she was en route from Port Angeles) and issued this statement: 

“I’m disappointed. It is more vital now than ever to engage and help inform our rule-making efforts. I hope the Northwest Environmental Advocates will continue to stay involved and offer their expertise in some way in this very important dialogue.”

Read the Letter

 

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