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Lobby Day: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

By Tim Bernthal

This year promises to be a tough year in Olympia for the environment, and for every other important issue. But does that mean we should sit it out on the sidelines until things get better?

It's more important than ever for the voices of concerned citizens to be heard on the key environmental issues facing our state.

Join hundreds of like-minded folks in Olympia for the annual Environmental Lobby Day on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011. Sign up today at http://pugetsound.org/programs/policy/lobbyday.

Washington state legislators just made some, and will soon be forced to make some more, ugly choices to close the $4.6 billion budget gap our state faces from in the next two years. Those choices will include more cuts to natural resource funding in all program areas, including those that protect Puget Sound.

The Environmental Priorities Coalition has an agenda that meets the needs of our state in hard times. It provides solutions that will protect our environment and put people to work at the same time to help lead us to a sustainable economy.

The four legislative priorities for 2011 provide ways to build a strong economy with a healthy environment:

First - Budget Solutions For Our Environment sustains core environmental protections by continuing investments in parks and preservation, and requires companies and others to pay their fair share for the services they receive.

Second - Coal Free Future For Washington State will protect citizens from the dangerous poisons emitted by the TransAlta coal-fired power plant in southwest Washington.  It will eliminate the health and environmental threats from the state's largest single source of toxic mercury, air, and climate pollution.

Third - Reducing Phosphorus Pollution is a commonsense and cost effective approach to reducing phosphorus in our waterways by restricting the sale of phosphorus lawn fertilizer in our state. It attacks the problem by eliminating this discharge before it requires the spending of millions of dollars in wastewater treatment upgrades at our industries and municipal wastewater plants.

Fourth - Working For Clean Water Act will fund job-creating projects all over the state, by building clean water infrastructure that will restore our waterways. 

Can we actually get these priorities implemented in such a bad economy? Certainly! On the coal-free issue the changes we are working for are already in the process of happening. A December 9, 2010 posting on the environmental website, Grist.org describes the victories already achieved in other western states, including the retiring of all of the Denver, Colorado metro area's coal plants by no later than 2017 and the permanent retirement of the Oregon Boardman plant, 600 megawatts of dirty coal power, by no later than 2020. On the Working For Clean Water front, this bill will create much needed good paying jobs to build stormwater infrastructure projects throughout the state at a time when job creation is on the forefront with our State Legislature.

Tim Bernthal is an Environmental Lobby Day Committee Volunteer and a member of People For Puget Sound.

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