House Dems remove fish-consumption study from budget

Jul 1, 2013

Washington state House Democrats removed funds for a fish-consumption study from the final budget. That went against the wishes of one of the state's biggest business interests, Boeing.

The state Department of Ecology currently assumes that people in Washington eat about one meal of fish a month. But the state acknowledges the standard is out of date; many people eat a lot more fish than that.

Tribes and environmental groups have been urging the state to update its standard and require stricter regulation of water pollution. But that has been met with resistance from businesses, including Boeing.

The state Senate wanted to include money for a fish-consumption study in the budget. Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter says he and other House leaders removed the language because the federal EPA recently told Washington state to stop delaying.

"It was pretty clear to me that if you did a three-year study that the EPA was going to impose a standard long before the study was completed. So (it) didn’t seem like a productive use of money," Hunter said. 

A spokeswoman for the Department of Ecology says the department expects to have a draft rule ready next year.

A Boeing spokesman, in an email, said the company is "working to ensure a reasonable solution and achievable water quality standards." To do that, he said, you first need a general population survey on fish consumption.

The investigative journalism project InvestigateWest has reported a series of articles that show how Boeing succeeded in slowing down the process during Gov. Chris Gregoire’s administration.