Issue Focus: Fish Consumption Rules
Here in Ritzville we’re in the middle of wheat harvest season. As a fifth-generation Washington wheat farmer, my work in the field is a constant reminder of the need for lawmakers to work with our farmers, producers, business owners and various industry champions.
I am proud to have recently received a Certificate of Commendation from the Washington Farm Bureau. This particular acknowledgment honors state lawmakers who support critical agricultural-related legislation. The Farm Bureau represents more than 41,000 member families throughout the state, and is essential to the continued success of our state’s thriving agricultural industry. Below are the two bills I worked on in the 2014 Legislative Session that earned the Farm Bureau’s recognition:
- Supported Senate Bill 6087, the agricultural water quality bill, and;
- Helped to defeat Senate Bill 6246, the maritime heritage area bill.
I also have received an “In the Bag!” award from the Washington Food Industry Association. This organization represents smaller and independent grocers. Their award recognizes my pro-agricultural voting record and leadership.
Agriculture is Under Attack Again
Unfortunately, a recent proposal from Governor Inslee and the Department of Ecology has the potential to hurt jobs and economic growth here in our state. The proposed update to Washington’s water quality standards is a drastic increase from current standards set in place in 1992.
While the federal Clean Water Act, enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requires states to adopt appropriate water quality standards, many are concerned about the lack of data, and science behind the extreme standards and regulations proposed.
The Governor is proposing to increase the current average fish consumption (from Washington rivers and lakes) from about a quarter of an ounce per day, per person, to about 6 ounces a day, per person. Simply put, the new rule assumes Washington residents eat 23 meals per month that include a half pound of fish and shellfish from Washington waters. That’s nearly 27 times the current rate and, again, it assumes this fish consumption is all from Washington rivers and lakes.
The proposal also increases the cancer risk rate as a result of fish consumption from one in a million to one in 100,000. Seventy percent of the chemicals currently regulated will be more restricted—even arsenic, which is a naturally occurring toxin in Washington water.
I agree that it’s critical to analyze and address our state’s water quality and implement higher standards as necessary. It is critical, however, that any new standards balance a cleaner environment with protecting family budgets, economic opportunity and jobs. And, it’s imperative that we don’t arbitrarily choose numbers, but through careful research and scientific support, we arrive at a reasonable rate of consumption and risk of disease.
Alarmingly, the city of Bellingham estimates that sewer bills will increase by $200 per month if the consumption rule passes. This is legislation that will risk jobs and hurt struggling Washington families.
We must demand that Governor Inslee and the DOE produce more details and information before these rules progress any further:
- Where is the scientific data? The Governor has revealed his plan, but the legislative language has not yet been released.
- What about the large percentage of fish and shellfish that Washingtonians eat that is farm raised or originated outside Washington waters? Recognizing this number is high, how is it possible to accurately assess the health risks?
- What will be the economic impact of the required implementation of technology and increased regulation for cities, counties and business, respectively?
- What will be the economic burden on taxpayers? Major industry leaders maintain that passing these stringent standards will cost Washington jobs.
The preliminary draft should be finished by September 30. The Legislature will have time to review comments from business, industry and the public as well as examine the policy during the 2015 Legislative Session.
In addition to all this, there is another crisis in agriculture: wheat farmers are being forced to stockpile goods as a labor dispute at the Port of Vancouver has slowed exports to a stall. The situation could be severe for Washington’s $1.2 billion wheat industry–especially out here in Eastern Washington. What makes matters worse is that Governor Inslee has backed off of providing escorts to grain-inspectors, a move that is hurting the industry and could have damaging effects on our local economy.
If you want to read more about this crisis, click here.
As always, I’ll keep you posted on these issues as they progress. I encourage you to be informed, as this legislation could have sweeping effects on Washington’s economic health. It could hit close to home via increased sewer costs but also cripple major job producers such as Boeing and the homebuilding industry.