SENATE BILL REPORT
As Reported By Senate Committee On:
Environment, Energy & Water, February 28, 2002
Title: An act relating to environmental excellence program agreements.
Brief Description: Concerning environmental excellence program agreements.
Sponsors: House Committee on Agriculture & Ecology (originally sponsored by Representatives Linville, Schoesler, Romero, Chandler, Jarrett, Reardon, Gombosky, Morris, Sehlin, Lantz, Conway, Kenney, Santos, Ogden, Bush, Schual‑Berke, Kessler, Chase, Rockefeller, Simpson, McDermott and Kagi).
Committee Activity: Environment, Energy & Water: 2/26/02, 2/28/02 [DPA].
SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT, ENERGY & WATER
Majority Report: Do pass as amended.
Signed by Senators Fraser, Chair; Regala, Vice Chair; Eide, Hale, Honeyford, Jacobsen, Keiser and Morton.
Staff: Richard Rodger (786‑7461)
Background: A federal initiative called Project XL is designed to provide regulated entities with flexibility in meeting environmental requirements while reducing pollution at the same time. Washington created a program under Project XL in 1997 that authorizes the director of a state, regional, or local agency to enter into environmental excellence agreements. Since that time, numerous other states have developed similar programs.
Regulated entities may propose alternative methods for complying with environmental laws to the directors of any state, regional, or local agency. These proposals can be accepted, and become environmental excellence agreements, if doing so will result in more effective and efficient environmental results. A proposal for an environmental excellence agreement must include a plan to involve stakeholders in the development, consideration, and implementation of the proposed environmental excellence agreement. Final decisions to accept, modify, or terminate environmental excellence agreements are subject to judicial review in superior court.
Environmental excellence agreements can be entered into for most environmental laws. However, certain environmental laws are not subject to the agreements, including agreements allowed for the release of a water or air pollutant that will exceed the allowed ambient environmental standard, for a proposal that would decrease the overall environmental results achieved by the facility over a past period of time, and for any remedial actions under the Model Toxics Control Act.
The authority for agency directors to enter into environmental excellence agreements expires on June 30, 2002. Any agreements entered into before this date will remain in effect. The Department of Ecology reports that only one environmental excellence agreement has been entered into as of January 1, 2002.
Summary of Amended Bill: Citizens applying to the state for a permit or license have the right to information regarding how long the decision on approval will take, what information will be required, and an estimate of how expensive the application process will be. This does not create a right of action.
The period of time that new environmental excellence agreements can be entered into is extended from June 30, 2002 to June 30, 2006.
Amended Bill Compared to Substitute Bill: The Environmental Excellence Program is extended to 2006, instead of 2012. The provisions concerning termination of the agreements is eliminated. The citizen provision is modified to specify what information citizen's can expect to receive, and it is clarified that no additional cause of action is created.
Fiscal Note: Not requested.
Effective Date: Ninety days after adjournment of session in which bill is passed.
Testimony For: This works well in other states and should be examined further and extended. This program holds promise for future use. We are willing to work with DOE to see if improvements can be made to add certainty to the process.
Testimony Against: This is very broad delegation of authority to a state agency; limit the extension of this program for just three years at this time. This would allow heightened legislative oversight of this program. The "citizen right" provision may cause problems for agencies and may create a cause of action against state agencies. The citizen right provision causes concerns for local governments because it appears to be very broad in scope.
Testified: Representative Linville, prime sponsor (pro); Kristin Sawin, AWB (pro); Bruce Wishart, People for Puget Sound (concerns); Dave Williams, Assn. of WA Cities (concerns).