How Boeing, allies torpedoed state’s rules on toxic fish

Gov. Chris Gregoire signs a 737 used to test new technologies at Boeing’sRenton, Wash., facility during “Aerospace Day,” June 20, 2012.  Later that day she met witha Boeing executive who had complained about the state’s proposed rules.Credit: Gov. Chris Gregoire/FlickrEntering her final year in office, former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire found herself in a difficult spot: Indian tribes, powerful supporters of the governor, wanted stricter water pollution rules. Why? Because the current regulations mean tribal members, along with sport fishermen and some other Washington residents, regularly consume dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals in fish from local waterways.But Gregoire’s supporters in the aerospace industry—spearheaded by The Boeing Co.—were dead set against tightening the rules. The Washington State Department of Ecology pushed mightily to strengthen the pollution limits before Gregoire left office, successfully outmaneuvering Republican legislators, only to see the plans dashed one day after a high-level meeting between the former governor and former Boeing Executive Vice President Jim Albaugh, according to newly released government records.“It was my expectation that this was not going to be a top-tier political issue,” Ted Sturdevant, the former Ecology director who tried unsuccessfully to shepherd through the changes, told InvestigateWest.He was wrong.

Timeline: Fish Consumption Rate

For more than 10 months, bureaucrats and business, politicians and tribes influenced the Department of Ecology’s ultimate decision to slam the brakes on fish consumption. Full emails and reports can be seen here.Read the Reporting Behind this Timeline