Springer regulatory reform signed into law to protect Washington industries

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OLYMPIA—Washington industries located along the Puget Sound and other important waters dodged an expensive regulatory bullet today when Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a new approach to protecting sensitive waters against bacteria in industrial storm water runoff.

The law, sponsored by state Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland), replaces unworkable numeric limits on bacteria levels in industrial storm-water runoff with a new narrative standard that focuses on ensuring best management practices to protect sensitive waters.

“This common-sense reform will protect our water and job-producing industries at the same time,” said Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland).  “It’s the solution our businesses and waters need.”

The Department of Ecology asked Springer to sponsor House Bill 2651 when it became clear that the state’s rigid numeric limits on bacteria failed to account for fecal bacteria that birds and small animals deposit on industrial properties. The critters’ deposits were preventing the vast majority of affected industries from meeting the state standard, despite their best efforts.

“This change gives industry greater flexibility in achieving permit compliance without compromising environmental protection,” said Courtney Barnes, Government Affairs Director for the Association of Washington Business.

Dave Gering, executive director of the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle, testified at a Senate public hearing last month that Springer’s bill will bring regulatory relief and certainty to Washington industries affected by the bacteria limits.

“This is a great teaching moment about when you try to make real the rhetoric you hear about business needing certainty,” Gering said. “This is the kind of measure that it takes to get there.”

“You want these companies investing in wages and real environmental remediation,” said Gering, who added that the previous, unworkable bacteria rule was known in business circles as the “Endangered Feces Act.”

According to the Department of Ecology, 75 to 80 businesses were affected by the problems with the previous rules. Most of the affected industries were located near Puget Sound.

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