Study measure reintroduced
OLYMPIA — Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, has introduced legislation allowing the citizens of Seattle to lead the state in environmental restoration efforts.
Senate Bill 6380 would launch a study of breaching the Ballard Locks, removing the Seattle City Light dams on the Skagit River that provide most of Seattle’s power, and restoring Seattle waterways to a pristine natural state. The measure aims to restore the natural paradise that existed in Seattle before settlers arrived 169 years ago.
“When we started talking about this idea last summer, we heard applause from across the state,” Ericksen said. “It was loudest from areas where Seattle environmental groups have proposed radical measures that would create local economic disaster, like breaching the Snake River dams. Funny thing, we didn’t hear any cheers from Seattle.”
Ericksen’s bold vision would enable Seattle to “go first” and lead by example. The Skagit River would run free. The Montlake Cut would be filled so that Lake Washington could be raised to historic levels. Ravenna Creek, now routed through a sewer pipe, would return to daylight, providing spawning habitat for fish. The local economy could be reoriented to tourism.
“I’m sure we could design an impartial study to reach the conclusions we want,” Ericksen said. “Lake Washington property owners might be inconvenienced when the water starts rising. Others might not like it when electricity bills skyrocket. But as they say in Seattle, no sacrifice is too great for somebody else to make.”
Also, Ericksen, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee, has responded to the state Supreme Court’s Jan. 16 ruling striking down the most onerous provisions of the Inslee Administration’s “Clean Air Rule.” The court ruled that state agencies cannot exceed the authority granted by state law in trying to force a cap-and-trade program on the state of Washington.
“This was a victory for the rule of law and for the people of the state of Washington,” Ericksen says. “The Inslee Administration overstepped its authority when it decided to force a ‘cap-and-trade’ program on the state of Washington without a vote of the Legislature. This would have imposed onerous new regulations on oil refiners and distributors of natural gas. Yet the court saw, as we did, that the state Clean Air Act doesn’t give Ecology the authority to impose regulations on the makers and distributors of products, and it can only regulate emitters.
But Ericksen sees a bigger issue involved.
“The people need to be included in decisions like these. The costs would have been passed along to consumers, and they would have been enormous, anywhere from $400 million to $6.8 billion over 20 years, according to the Department of Ecology’s own estimates. Benefits were slim to none, and it would have wrenched our economy and thrown people out of work. The Inslee Administration decided it knew better than everyone else.”
The senator said he hopes this decision will quell the enthusiasm of other agencies to exceed the authority granted them by state law — and he cites the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s decision to impose low-carbon fuel standards on the Puget Sound area, without a law giving it the authority to do it.
The Inslee case was “a classic example of government arrogance and overreach,” Ericksen said. “The people and their representatives in the Legislature cannot be cut out of the decisions that will affect their lives. Government should always listen to the people.”