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Published on Friday, June 14, 2013

MTCA Reform bill passes

Late at night on June 13, the legislature passed Sen. Doug Ericksen’s sometimes controversial Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) reform bill (SB 5296) with large bipartisan majorities in both houses.

At the core, this proposal was an effort by Sen. Ericksen to make the states toxic cleanup programs work more effectively, to create jobs by focusing funds on core uses like cleanups and stormwater and to protect the funding sources that sponsor this important work from the sort of legislative raids that have plagued the account in previous bad budget years.

AWC has been working with Sen. Ericksen and supporting this bill for much of the 2013 session and the final bill contains a number of items that are beneficial to cities. We want to thank Sen. Ericksen, Sen. Kevin Ranker and the other members and stakeholders who worked on this bill for their efforts to refine the policy and ensure that city considerations were incorporated.

Among the elements of this large and complicated proposal that are beneficial to cities:

  • Provides even greater certainty that large complicated cleanups will have the long-term state financial backing necessary for cities and other public entities to take on the large financial liabilities. The bill provides for a new extended grant agreement framework that will be the top priority for funding moving forward.
  • New tools developed by Senator Ranker to help facilitate the cleanup of small sites known as brownfields. These sites, such as old dry cleaners or gas stations, are often common in cities and haven’t been as successful at securing state financial support. These tools should help bring more properties back into use.
  • Stormwater assistance is specifically authorized for the first time and is now the second priority for the local toxics account (after toxic cleanups).
  • Development and promotion of “model remedies” to help speed up the more common types of cleanups and reduce the time needed to get a cleanup plan through the Ecology process.
  • Creation of the Environmental Legacy and Stewardship Account which will now receive a share of revenues dedicated to performance and outcome-based investments in toxic cleanups and prevention, stormwater, and derelict vessels. The hope is this account will be a catalyst for ensuring the legislature refrains from siphoning these funds to the general fund and instead has a mechanism to direct dollars towards the highest-priority projects around the state.

Previous versions of this proposal had considered limiting access to these funds for solid waste work and organic composting feasibility studies. Those provisions caused concerns for some cities, but have been eliminated in the final draft.