‘I think we have enough already,’ says senator from hard-hit region
OLYMPIA – A bill creating a new council on ‘environmental justice’ creates a new way to kill industrial projects and stifle job creation across the state, says Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview.
Senate Bill 5141 passed the Senate on a caucus-line vote Monday night after lengthy debate, 28-21. All members of the Senate Republican Caucus voted against the bill, which now moves to the House for further consideration.
The bill would create an Environmental Justice Council and direct it to write guidelines for approval of major projects requiring state permits. The new council would be composed of persons appointed to represent the views of ethnic and racial minorities and other groups. State agencies would be required to implement environmental justice plans promulgated by the council and make its concerns a top priority.
Wilson noted that the state Department of Ecology stalled several projects important to the Longview area without any assistance from an environmental justice council – by selectively imposing new criteria it invented, rather than evaluating environmental impacts at the project sites, the normal procedure in every other state permitting process.
“The creativity Ecology used was so astounding that it demonstrated our state agencies don’t need any help,” Wilson said. “Washington doesn’t need another way to kill major industrial projects. I think we have enough already.”
During Monday’s debate, Wilson offered an amendment that would have designated job creation in overburdened communities to be an environmental benefit. The amendment was defeated by majority Democrats.
In closing remarks, Wilson said, “I have no choice but to say, where’s the balance? The environment is precious. In fact, my district is loaded with all of the things that we want to preserve and protect. But we’ve missed this balance.”
Wilson noted that his district in Southwest Washington suffered the worst unemployment in the state amid the COVID economic shutdown.
“I am very concerned that this type of legislation may be able to be weaponized to inhibit jobs in all four corners of our beautiful state,” he said.