By MIKE PETERSEN and
We are living in challenging times. Our state's dire economic situation confronts all of us daily. Things we all care about as Washingtonians are at risk. Health care, education and core environmental protections are threatened by the economic recession. In the midst of these challenges, we must make smart decisions that both support economic recovery and protect our environment.
The Environmental Priorities Coalition, a coalition of 24 leading environmental groups in Washington State, has a legislative agenda that tackles this daunting task by promoting policies that will save money, spur job creation, and help to protect our environment -- a triple win for the economy and for healthy communities.
Now more than ever, it's more important to safeguard those basic environmental protections that we all rely on to protect the health of our families and communities. Through a proactive solution for our state budget --one that sustains core environmental protections to ensure clean air and water and the clean-up of toxic contamination, continues investments in parks and preservation and relieves pressure on the general fund by requiring companies and others to pay their fair share for the services they receive --we can strike a balance that even in hard times will protect our public health, economic future, and quality of life in Washington.
We have a responsibility to keep our lakes and rivers clean and healthy for ourselves and our children. Phosphorus from our lawns can cause algae blooms and harm water quality, fish habitat, and recreation in our lakes and rivers. Our businesses and local governments have spent millions on wastewater treatment upgrades to control their phosphorus discharge. Additional upgrades will cost millions more, yet do little to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering our waterways. Banning the sale of phosphorus lawn fertilizer costs almost nothing. It will save money and jobs, and clean up our lakes and rivers, a win-win for our economy and the environment.
You don't need phosphorous in your fertilizer to have a green lawn. There are better, cheaper alternatives that give all of us the freedom to have a beautiful yard and clean rivers. Other states have proven we can do this. Studies on Michigan lakes showed a 28 percent reduction in phosphorus in the water after a ban on the chemical in fertilizers. For those special cases where the use of phosphorous in lawn fertilizer is absolutely necessary, the proposed legislation allows it to be purchased with a prescription.
Banning the sale of phosphorus lawn fertilizers in our state is a commonsense and cost-effective approach to ensure that our lakes and rivers are clean and we're not forcing our businesses and local governments to waste money on unnecessary infrastructure.
But phosphorus isn't the only thing harming our waterways. Each year millions of gallons of petroleum pollute our lakes, rivers and marine waters through toxic oil runoff from our roads and cities, posing a serious threat to our health and environment. The Working for Clean Water legislation will spur economic development by financing new necessary clean water infrastructure projects all over the state. Now is the time to put Washington back to work and provide a cleaner environment that we'll be proud of for generations.
Now is also the time to move beyond the "dirty fuels economy" of the past to the "clean energy economy" of the future. Coal is a fuel of the past. Burning coal fouls our air, pollutes our water, sickens our children and destroys the environment. The TransAlta plant is the state's only coal-fired power plant and is the largest single source of toxic mercury, air and climate pollution. This relic of the dirty fuel economy is a roadblock to our clean energy future. Every day that it burns coal, TransAlta's power plant hurts our communities. TransAlta gets millions in tax breaks for a coal mine that no longer exists and whose workers were unceremoniously let go. The public pays twice; Once for the subsidy and again for the health damages caused by TransAlta's pollution. Our families' health and a sustainable, job-creating economy are more important than the profits of one foreign corporation.
We can transition our state off coal by 2015. We Washingtonians have conquered greater challenges before. Four years is plenty of time to ensure justice for TransAlta workers, build the local economy, and choose from the wide array of affordable clean energy options. We don't need coal power to keep the lights on. Every day we delay the transition is another day of paying TransAlta to poison our families and our state.
Mike Petersen is Executive Director of The Lands Council in Spokane Wash. Beth leDoux is President of The Washington State Lake Protection Association.
For more information about the 2011 Environmental Priorities please visit: www.environmentalpriorities.org