With the bill deadline looming next Friday, it's sausage-making time in Olympia — and environmental lobbyists are getting nervous. At this point, if you're an environmental lobbyist, the worst of the wurst may be Senate Bill 6406.
In addition to "streamlining" some regulatory requirements, it would deny citizens — or citizens' groups — standing to challenge growth management decisions. This week, explains Nature Conservancy lobbyist Bill Robinson, it will probably gain a provision that would delay or eliminate current requirements to deal with stormwater, thereby "making a bad bill even worse."
Who's behind all this? "The building industry has been opposed to the Growth Management Act from Day One," Robinson says. It would also like to do away with potentially expensive stormwater regulations. But it is not alone. Washington's cities join with it in opposing current stormwater requirements, he says.
Robinson explains that last year, industry, state agencies and environmental groups started talking about streamlining approval processes in exchange for raising forest practices and hydraulic permit approval fees. (The legislative staff's summary of the testimony in favor of the measure shows that supporters tie the measure to discussion of the fees and that they favor linking of forest and hydraulic regulations.) SB 6406 is rationalized as streamliining, too, but once it was out there, "the pile-on started," Robinson says.
"We knew that all of our environmental laws would be under fire," he says. But the political winds may be blowing up a perfect storm for environmental groups that went to Olympia with little more in mind than holding the line. That line may be hard to hold.
If the Democrats want to pass a budget, much less pass a jobs bill, "they're going to have to get a vote from some very conservative members," Robinson explains, and they may be willing to deal. On the other side, many Republicans here as nationally cling to the belief that the best way to get the economy going is to get those cumbersome environmental regulations out of the way.
Of course, the fact that a bill has been introduced doesn't mean it will ever see the light of day. Does SB 6064, in some form or other, stand a chance of reaching the floor? Yes, Robinson says, "I think it is likely to go."