Meeting Minutes from inSPIRe Social on January 19, 2008

We had our first social event of 2008 at Carrie s home on Capitol Hill. We had a nice turnout with approximately 35 to 40 guests to hear our guest speakers Kerry McHugh, Amy Petersen and Elliot Marks. Thanks so much to Carrie for opening up her home!



Sealth project from West Seattle Neighbors of Peace and Justice a small group has organized to counter military recruitment at Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle, on SW Thistle St., to provide  alternative information, resources and discussion for students contemplating military recruitment.  The group convenes during military recruitment times and is hoping to assist in organizing a student-led peace group at Chief Sealth. For more information or to volunteer help with time or money, please contact Barbara at

inSPIRe Book Club! We are now reading The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright for our next meeting, January 23rd. To join the book club and get on the list, just send an email to


Keynote Speakers: Kerry McHugh from the Washington Environmental Council (, Amy Peterson is from Environment Washington ( and longtime Washington State environmental activist/advisor Elliot Marks.


Minutes from Elliot s detailed discussion regarding the state of Puget Sound and what needs to be done to clean up Puget Sound are provided right after the following minutes regarding Amy and Kerry s talk on the Priorities for Healthy Washington.


Each year Washington s environmental community comes together to select four legislative Priorities for a Healthy Washington ( By joining their voices (and organizational heft), the more than twenty groups who make up the Priorities collaborative are better able to advance ambitious goals in the legislature and make a difference for Washington s land, air, and water. This year s Priorities encompass legislation to get our state on track to meet its goals for reducing global warming pollution, to make our communities denser and more climate friendly, to protect and restore our urban forests, and to invigorate farms while providing healthier food for local kids.


This strategy of building a coalition and focusing efforts has proven to be successful. In 2005, two of the four priorities were successful; in 2006 three of the four were successful; and in 2007 all four were successful. A joint cohesive effort works much better than twenty four separate groups lobbying our legislators on a multitude of different environmental issues at the same time. The old process lead to fragmentation. The new coalition has been much more successful. The coalition met late last summer to propose possible initiatives. A disciplined process lead to agreement on the four initiatives for 2008. It is important to gauge the political environment when setting the priorities. This year is an off-budget year and Governor Gregoire has indicated there are limited resources, thus it was not good timing for overly ambitious goals.

PRIORITY #1: Kerry first discussed the Local Farms - Healthy Kids, Helping Washington Farmers Feed Washington Kids initiative (

Its benefits include:

Supporting farmers: Washington agriculture deserves a spot in the lunch line. This effort helps farmers, food processors, manufacturers and distributors bring great Washington products into schools.

Healthy kids: Farm fresh food for our schools will help address obesity because eating behaviors practiced during childhood carry over into adulthood.

Preserving Farmland: By creating sustainable markets for our farmers, we help keep working farms working and help preserve farming communities near our cities and towns.

Less waste: When food is consumed near to where it is grown and processed, there is less need for wasteful packaging, refrigeration, storage and freight. By keeping our food local we use less energy and create less waste.

Legislative Proposal: Our schools represent an enormous potential market for Washington s farmers, and the best vehicle for improving kids access to healthy food. This legislation will make Washington a national leader in getting locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to those who need it most by:

Making it possible: This bill will expand children s access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables by easing purchasing restrictions that currently make it difficult for schools and institutions to buy from local farms.

Forging connections:  Establishing a state Farm To School program that will connect schools with community farmers, and will provide necessary information and technical assistance to both school districts and farms.

Getting good food into the classroom: Washington will enact a Washington Grown Fruits and Vegetables Program that will fund a fresh food snack program in schools with high numbers of low-income students.

Helping those who need it most: This effort will make it easier for low income families to purchase locally grown food by enabling farmers markets to accept food stamps, increasing funding of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and creating pilot projects for food banks to purchase fresh food directly from Washington farms. (download a pdf version of this document (pdf 135 Kb)).

For additional information, contact Kerri Cechovic, Washington Environmental Council, 206-631-2607 or


PRIORITY #2: Kerry and Amy next discussed the Local Solutions to Global Warming initiative ( In order to achieve the State s goal to significantly reduce global warming pollution, responsible decisions need to be made to reduce driving and promote more efficient, livable communities. The choices made in local land use and zoning plans about where a growing population will live and work and how they will get around have a huge impact on global warming emissions. 

Its benefits include:

Helps address root causes of transportation pollution. Poorly planned, irresponsible development is driving global warming pollution half of the global warming pollution in the entire state.

Protects farm and forest land. Poorly planned development is the leading cause of farm and forest conversion another contributor to global warming.

Increases buildings and energy efficiency. About 25 to 30 percent of total U.S. energy consumption is used for building operations- such as heating and cooling. Integrating green building design into more compact communities can reduce building energy consumption by up to 50% at little additional cost.

Legislative Proposal

Local Solutions to Global Warming would add a goal of reducing climate impact to the Growth Management Act (GMA) and identify reducing global warming as an important aspect of comprehensive planning.

Local leadership: Local jurisdictions representing nearly 70% of the state s population have committed to major reductions in their global warming pollution. A coordinated statewide effort will provide local governments with the necessary support to use existing tools to significantly reduce their climate impact.

Hitting the mark: Planning cities with more than 30,000 people and counties with more than 50,000 people would be required to: 1) Evaluate decisions that increase emissions and determine how best to reduce those impacts; 2) Evaluate current emissions and impacts of future decisions; 3) Include plans to achieve the state s global warming pollution reduction goals in their comprehensive planning process.

Flexibility: This new required element will be phased-in during the next update cycle starting in 2011 (happens every seven years for these counties and cities). For smaller cities and counties this climate action will be voluntary.  Each local government will have the flexibility to determine how to reach the goal of reduced climate impact.

Real solutions: Encouraging more compact and transit oriented development in urban growth areas; Focusing growth in areas with transit options; Establishing transfer of development right programs to protect forests and farmland; Encouraging use of new technologies that reduce global warming pollution and increase efficiency;
Providing more urban forest investments. (download a pdf version of this document (pdf 83 Kb)


Lead Contact: Megan Blanck-Weiss, Futurewise, 206-343-0681 x121 or


PRIORITY #3: Kerry and Amy next discussed the Climate Action and Green Jobs initiative. ( Earlier this year, Governor Gregoire and the Legislature set goals to reduce the state s global warming pollution, and increase the number of green jobs in the state. The Climate Action and Green Jobs bill is a critical next step our state can take in the fight against global warming. 2008 is a crucial year for action.

Its benefits include:

Action now helps make a difference: We can t wait any longer for the federal government to solve the problem. Our state can and should be a leader for change. And by taking steps in 2008, Washington will influence regional solutions and create momentum for the national action needed to solve this global problem.

Green jobs: The bill ensures that Washington workers are trained to take advantage of these new opportunities and job growth in renewable and clean energy.

Fueling economic growth: Responsible climate policy will generate accelerated investment in clean energy technologies, businesses, and deployment programs. As we switch to an economy less dependent on fossil fuels, states taking action now to reduce climate pollution are seeing the greatest growth in their clean energy economies.


Legislative Proposal

The Climate Action and Green Jobs bill creates a structure and timeline for implementing the state s global warming pollution reduction goals, and creates a program to prepare Washington workers for good jobs in the clean energy economy, providing pathways out of poverty for lower-income communities.

Accountability: The bill would make the Washington State Department of Ecology responsible for achieving the state s emissions reduction goals. It would direct Ecology to develop responsible limits on all major sources of global warming pollution in the state.

Regional solutions : The legislature would affirm the state s participation in developing a regional market-based pollution trading system like the one Washington is now helping to develop with numerous other western states and Canadian provinces.

Responsibility: requires reporting by those that are responsible for the greatest amount sources of global warming pollution.

Opportunity: The bill would create a competitive grants-based training program, to be funded and implemented in 2009, that will train and transition workers to clean energy jobs. (download a pdf version of this document (pdf 48 Kb)

Lead contact: Meagan Dixon, Climate Solutions, 206-443-9570, ext 23 or


PRIORITY #4: Finally, Kerry and Amy discussed the Evergreen Cities initiative ( As our population grows, trees are replaced with impervious blacktop and concrete. Meanwhile climate change is increasing runoff pollution and flooding. Trees in our cities are one of the most cost-effective ways to improve our water quality, air quality and our quality of life. This proposal ensures the Evergreen State is full of Evergreen Cities.

Its benefits include:

Healthy and expanded urban forests will be helpful to communities and people across the state:

  • Trees reduce runoff, a top Puget Sound pollutant, and save tax payers over $2.4 billion in stormwater management.
  • The right trees in the right place can reduce energy costs and associated greenhouse gas emissions by 30% for Eastern Washington home and business owners.
  • This proposal will increase communities goals, objectives and management plans for urban forests and the environmental services they provide.
  • Trees absorb air pollutants that cause asthma and global warming.

Legislative Proposal

The Evergreen Cities Act restores, retains and establishes more trees and forests in our communities by creating:

Inventory and assessment: The bill directs the Department of Natural Resources to develop a statewide inventory and assessment of our communities forests, providing critical technical assistance for local government ordinance and forest plan development.

Funding for local governments : New revenue is generated by utility ratepayers for cities and counties to develop and implement tree ordinances, forest management plans, and for utilities to increase service reliability, leveraging increased federal funds.

Partnerships and education: Local governments will engage volunteers, conservation, homeowners and civic groups in forest plan development and implementation.

Regional performance standards: Department of Community Trade and Economic Development convenes advisory committee and creates rule s for eco-regional performance standards for tree retention, forest restoration, urban forest canopy, ordinances and management plans to achieve environmental objectives.

Tree ordinances and management plans:
Local governments are funded to update or adopt tree ordinances and urban forest management plans to meet these standards. (download a pdf version of this document (pdf 96 Kb)

Lead contacts: Heath Packard, Audubon Washington, 360-790-5680 or and Lisa Paribello, Audubon Washington, 360-786-8020 x201 or


Finally, Kerry and Amy briefly discussed the good work being accomplished at 1 Sky Washington (, a coalition of an impressive array of climate leaders in government, business, and civic organizations. These leaders come from all walks of life and all parts of the state from pioneers in urban transportation to innovators in farm-based bio-energy; from high-tech investors to community agencies providing new opportunities for low-income citizens to gain a foothold in the clean energy economy.


The State of Puget Sound Elliot Marks.

Elliot is an attorney who served as Policy Advisor for Natural Resources to Governors Daniel J. Evans and Christine Gregoire. He recently completed a part-time assignment as Special Assistant to the Director of State Parks. Previously, he opened the Washington State office of The Nature Conservancy in 1977, and served as its state director and as the Northwest regional vice-president of the Conservancy for 27 years. Elliot also led legislative efforts which created and funded the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, state Trust Land Transfer program, the Natural Resource Conservation Area system, State Natural Area Preserve System, conservation easement enabling legislation, and a state stewardship account. Collectively these programs have protected hundreds of thousands of acres of parks, natural areas, wildlife habitat, riparian zones, recreational facilities, etc., worth more than $2 billion in Washington State.

A key problem in the efforts to clean up Puget Sound has been the habit of breaking the efforts into bit-sized chunks . Puget Sound is a very, very complex system and the problems facing it can t be looked at in isolation. Puget Sound is not doing very well. To see how we got to this point, Elliot started with a brief recent history of Puget Sound.

In the late 1960s/early 1970s, signs went up along Lake Washington stating no swimming allowed due to pollution. This was the action necessary to get our community to finally take notice of the pollution problem and begin the work of clean-up. Bonds were passed and changes were made, but effectively what happened was that the pollution was moved from Lake Washington to Puget Sound.

Puget Sound seemed inexhaustible, giving us the impression that dumping pollution into Puget Sound was no big deal . Nothing was further from the truth, and we have been slow to admit to the fact that we have been fouling our own nest. The problem first was highlighted in 1984 when whales began to die. At that time we were doing primary sewage treatment, and efforts began to begin also doing secondary sewage treatment. But the business community pushed back.

After studies, in 1985 the state legislature created the Puget Sound Restoration Authority. This was a huge outreach program. It included a five year sunset clause to reassess its progress. At that time some of the involved environmental groups were hard-core and the plan was considered controversial. The legislature adopted only a small piece of the plan. In 1990 the legislature stripped away much of PSRA s authority, including moving their office from Seattle to Olympia for better oversight . After another five years passed, PSRA lost even more authority, thanks in part to a Republican lead Senate. The operation was moved into the governor s office from 1995 to 2005.

In 2005 Congressman Norm Dicks came to see Governor Gregoire. Dicks indicated that to continue his efforts obtaining federal funds for salmon restoration the issues needed to be re-framed for Puget Sound. Key concerns for salmon needed to be emphasized.

Elliot then reviewed some stark and disturbing numbers regarding the health of Puget Sound. Over 60% of Puget Sound s water quality is today impaired. There is no current funding for a clean-up plan. The level of toxics are extremely high. A typical measure of toxics is within harbor seals harbor seals have seen a 2000% increase in their level of toxics. Runoff of human and animal waste is resulting in the closing of shellfish beds.

Storm runoff is arguably the largest and most difficult problem facing Puget Sound. This is increasing due to our population growth. We are going to grow by approximately 40%, or 1.5 million new people in the Puget Sound region over the next 15 years. With this comes additional impermeable surfaces. We are nearing 10% of all surfaces being impermeable. At this 10% point it will become extremely difficult to for Puget Sound to survive.

We all (and this includes me and you!) contribute to this no matter how careful we are. Our own pollution ends up in Puget Sound. Our technology to prevent this is really pretty crude. Most pollution control techniques are not sophisticated enough to take out major pollutants such as dust from car brake linings, etc. Habit is disappearing in Puget Sound. Species are also disappearing. For example, marine birds, at the top of the food chain thus an excellent representation of what the condition is of the entire ecosystem, are disappearing at rates from 20% to 90%. Puget Sound doesn t flush out as some people have thought it does. It actually includes many deep basins which have turned into dead zones. Hood Canal is an example of this. This is not easily and readily visible to the general public, which thus gives folks the impression things are just fine .

The Puget Sound region is warming at twice the global rate. We have lost 25% of our local snowpack since 1950. This is an example of the many inter-related issues affecting Puget Sound.

This problem is perhaps the most important environmental issue facing Washington State and we can t afford to write it off . Our strategy must be to figure out what is possible to achieve within our political environment which includes a multitude of entities and jurisdictions, which makes it really hard to work this problem. We really need a very large new revenue source, I.E. big new taxes, which will be most likely adamantly opposed by many if not most Washingtonians. This could include a flush tax such as they have around the Chesapeake Bay.

Governments are adverse to take on such a big issue. It really takes gutsy leaders, and fortunately Governor Gregoire is just that. Our current political approach is not really that different than it was in 1985. But what is new is that Puget Sound has gained a higher profile. Norm Dicks was able to obtain $20 million. There are many high-profile community leaders involved with integrated thinking. There is a scientific panel involved, but so far, they have not been able to agree on the key issues and solutions. The current deadline is 2020.

Q Where have there been successes in clean-ups?

A Really they have been with big lakes, such as Lake Tahoe in California/Nevada.


Q How are they really able to forecast that type of population growth?

A The demographers that do this are actually quite good.


Q Isn t the major issue just controlling development?

A That s part of it, but no politician wants to tackle this. We need to figure out how to handle 40% growth and we ve yet to do that. There are many different ideas. Plants on tops of roofs, more permeable surfaces, much better controlled waste water, etc. But it will take billions of dollars to do all this. What we need to start doing is to fully and accurately counting the true cost to our community and our environment with projects, and not to just pass them on to future generations.


Q What about going vertical with our new buildings?

A This is one strategy for less permeable surfaces.


Q What about the recent issue of the new gravel pit on Maury Island?

A It is an environmental issue, as well as an issue affecting Puget Sound, but in reality it is not a huge issue affecting Puget Sound. It s more of a not in my backyard issue, and it is up against the fact that we have a shortage of gravel needed for road work.


Q What about pay-as-you-pollute taxes?

A We actually have these today. But there is a lot of jockeying around, politics, etc. It is ten times easier to kill something in Olympia than it is to pass something. Things always get reduced down to simple sound-bites.


Q Where can we get the biggest bang for our tax dollars?

A First, we need to get the scientists to agree. We definitely need more permeable surfaces. We also need to do what it takes to save our remaining habits. Our current system for septic tanks is prehistoric!


Q What can we do locally?

A Get involved with local groups. Join in the collaboration. Beat the drum! One group to consider is People for Puget Sound at


As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded. Sorry!

Many thanks to Elliot, Amy and Kerry for their informative and important talks!

See you at the next inSPIRe meeting!


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Speakers: Amy Petersen (left) and Kerry McHugh (right)


Speaker: Elliot Marks


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