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Published on Friday, February 8, 2013

Significant new proposal on environmental justice

HB 1434 from Rep. Pollet (D-Seattle) is a significant new proposal on “environmental justice” – a term to describe what some view as disproportionate impacts on certain communities from the siting of pollution-generating facilities or granting of environmental permits.

This proposal is very broad and contains numerous provisions would impact cities. We would appreciate any feedback prior to the hearing on February 14. Please provide any thoughts to Carl Schroeder.

In summary, the bill:

  • Authorizes the Department of Ecology to identify “highly impacted communities” that the Department has determined are likely to bear a disproportionate burden of public health risks from environmental pollution - based on income, public health impacts, cultural practices, etc.
  • Creates a new notice provision, if requested by a community organization in a highly impacted area, of agency review or issuance of air, hazardous waste, or clean water permits. Although it is unclear how it would function, this section states that it is not intended to duplicate existing notice provisions that provide the same level of protection.
  • Specifies that if a permit is to be issued in a highly impacted community, the Department may require a “community dialogue process” conducted by a professional mediator.
  • Directs that the Department may consider the report at the end of the community dialogue when final permit decisions are made.
  • Authorizes the Department to require supplemental environmental projects in highly impacted communities when air, waste or clean water permits are violated.