• Breaking News: WA Gov Inslee Rejects Oil Terminal

    In a huge victory for environmental organizations across the region, Washington Governor Inslee has officially shut down the proposed Tesoro Savage oil terminal.

    Press Release from Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC):

    Case Number: EF-131590

    Inslee issues decision to reject permit for Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal project

    Olympia, Wash. – Gov. Jay Inslee today notified state regulators that he agrees with their unanimous recommendation to reject Tesoro Savage’s application to build a new terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

    The decision follows a lengthy evaluation process by the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which voted last November to deny the permit and last month submitted its recommendation to the governor.

    In his letter to EFSE, Inslee said several issues compelled his decision including seismic risks, the inability to sufficiently mitigate oil spill risks, and the potential safety risks of a fire or explosion.

    “The Council has thoroughly examined these and other issues and determined that it is not possible to adequately mitigate the risks, or eliminate the adverse impacts of the facility, to an acceptable level,” Inslee wrote. “When weighing all of the factors considered against the need for and potential benefits of the facility at this location, I believe the record reflects substantial evidence that the project does not meet the broad public interest standard necessary for the Council to recommend site certification.”

    Inslee also noted that the application was “unprecedented both in its scale and the scope of issues it raised.”

    “While this process has demonstrated that this particular project is wrong for this particular proposed location, I am confident that our ports will continue to play an important role in regional trade, and providing opportunities for jobs in clean energy.”

    Tesoro Savage has 30 days to appeal the governor’s decision in Thurston County Superior Court.

  • Breaking: WA Supreme Court Unanimously Reinstates Pollution Control Hearings Board Decision to Protect Stormwater: State “Vesting” Law Cannot Undermine Clean Water Standards

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2016

    Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1025 jhasselman@earthjustice.org
    Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper, 206-297-7002 chris@pugetsoundkeeper.org

    WA Supreme Court:  Developers Can’t Evade Water Pollution Standards

    State high court unanimously overturns Court of Appeals to find that state “vesting” law does not apply to clean water standards

    Olympia, WA—In a major victory for clean water, the Washington State Supreme Court today unanimously rejected an effort by counties and developers to weaken a key permit designed to reduced toxic runoff and protect waterways including Puget Sound.

    State high court justices ruled unanimously that state “vesting” laws can’t undercut clean water standards that local governments must adopt as part of the federal Clean Water Act and parallel state laws.  Under state vesting laws, development projects can apply regulations in place at the time of the project application, even if they are not built for years or even decades later.  The vesting laws have been a major impediment to the implementation of critical standards that prevent sprawl and reduce pollution.

    Stormwater runoff is a toxic brew of rainwater that drains off streets, parking lots, and other hard surfaces carrying motor oil, pesticides, fertilizers, and other urban residues into nearby streams, rivers, and marine waters.  It is the major source of pollution in Puget Sound.

    “Today the Washington Supreme Court stood up for clean water,” said Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice attorney who, along with Janette Brimmer, represented Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Washington Environmental Council, and the Rosemere Neighborhood Association in the case. “Obsolete vesting laws don’t trump clean water, and Washington state will not fall behind in its ability to protect Puget Sound and its rivers and streams.”

    In rejecting the arguments by developers that the stormwater permits are subject to vesting laws, and overturning a divided Court of Appeals, the high court justices found that state vesting law is intended to limit the exercise of municipal discretion, not undercut federal and state laws intended to reduce pollution.  The high court’s ruling ends nearly a decade of legal wrangling over the Western Washington municipal stormwater permits, which, under a 2008 court ruling, require municipalities to integrate “low impact development” requirements into their development codes.

    “We applaud our state’s high court justices for limiting antiquated vesting laws that have represented a roadblock to clean water,” said Chris Wilke, Executive Director of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “The days of taking advantage of the vesting loophole are over.  It’s time to move ahead with solving the problem of polluted stormwater runoff and recovering Puget Sound along with salmon, orcas and communities that rely on clean water.”

    “The ruling by our state’s high court justices is a victory for everyone.   Clean water is essential for the health of our communities, to support our vibrant economy, and protect our iconic yet endangered species: salmon and orca,” said Mindy Roberts, Washington Environmental Council’s People for Puget Sound Director.

    “We applaud the Washington high court panel for their ruling,” said John Felton, chairman of the Rosemere Neighborhood Association. “The justices gave us a wonderful gift—the gift of supporting clean water by closing harmful loopholes that allowed developers to lock in outdated standards. This is an outstanding way to start the new year!”


    Polluted runoff is the single-largest source of toxic pollution to Puget Sound. Thepollution kills salmon, damages shellfish beds and threatens our drinking-water supplies.

    Oral argument last October 13th before the state Supreme Court was the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of effort, starting with the challenge to the 2007 Municipal Stormwater General Permits.

    In 2008, in a challenge led by Puget Soundkeeper Alliance represented by Earthjustice, the state Pollution Control Hearings board (PCHB) overturned the state permits, and held that federal and state law required green infrastructure or “low impact development” (LID) approaches to new and redevelopment throughout Western Washington. Green infrastructure, like rain gardens, treats rainfall where it lands, keeping runoff out of the sewers and pollution out of Puget Sound. It is a highly effective, and cost-effective, approach to managing toxic runoff.

    The 2012 permit–which made LID mandatory in Western Washington for the first time–was issued after several years of technical and policy input from stakeholders, but was appealed by regulated municipalities and developers.  Puget Soundkeeper, WEC, and Rosemere Neighborhood Association, again represented by Earthjustice, intervened to defend the permits.

    In 2013, the PCHB rejected all of those legal challenges, and upheld the permit. King County, Snohomish County, and the Building Industry Association of Clark County sought appellate review of that decision on a single issue: whether the state vesting law allows developers to “lock in” outdated development standards for all time.  The PCHB had comprehensively ruled that standards issued under a stormwater permit are not subject to state vesting law.

    Last January, in a surprise 2-1 decision, the state Court of Appeals Division II, reversed the PCHB on the vesting issue.  It concluded that requirements to implement LID designs and other critical standards to protect water were “land use ordinances” subject to state vesting laws.

    Today, the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Court of Appeals Division II ruling and reinstated the PCHB decision, holding that the requirements of a state water pollution permit are not subject to state vesting law.  The decision settles a dispute that has spanned nearly a decade and provides a platform for Ecology to further improve water pollution technologies in the next iteration of permit expected in 2018.

    You can download a pdf version of this Press Release here: Earthjustice Stormwater Vesting WA Supremes Win Final Press Release

    Read the full Supreme Court Opinion here: Supreme Court No. 92805-3 – Snohomish County, et al., v. Pollution Control Hearings Board, et al Opinion

  • Gov. Inslee Directs WA Department of Ecology to Draft New Water Quality Rules

    Washington-StateSealWashington Governor Jay Inslee announced Thursday he is directing the WA Department of Ecology to draft new water quality regulations in order to comply with an order from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

    In September, the EPA told the state it would issue federal rules on Washington’s water quality if the state did not act.

    Inslee’s announcement prompts the WA agency to draft new rules in order to preserve its decision-making process and would allow the state to avoid further federal regulation of industry and local governments responsible for reducing water pollution.

    Gov. Inslee explained:

    “My goal all along has been to update Washington’s clean water rule with one that assures the health of Washington’s people, fish and economy,” Inslee said.  “The number one thing I hear over and over when talking with people is how critical it is that we maintain control over creation of this rule to ensure that we’re protecting human health while providing businesses and local governments sensible tools to comply with the stricter standards.”

    To view the entire press release, go to the governor’s website at http://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-announces-new-path-water-quality-rule-continues-work-broader-toxics-reduction

  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Featured at Columbia Riverkeeper Fundraiser

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Columbia Riverkeeper Fundraiser May 2015

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Columbia Riverkeeper Fundraiser May 2015

    Columbia Riverkeeper held a successful fundraiser on May 26 to celebrate their 15 years of championing clean water and environmental efforts in safeguarding the Columbia River.

    We would like to thank Columbia Riverkeeper for a wonderful evening headlined by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. with Rosemere Neighborhood Association Officers at Riverkeeper Fundraiser May 2015

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. with Rosemere Neighborhood Association Officers at Riverkeeper Fundraiser May 2015

    Mr Kennedy, environmental attorney, best-selling author, and activist was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for helping restore the Hudson River.

    In 2000 he encouraged the formation of Columbia Riverkeeper dedicated to protecting the great river of the west, the Columbia River.

    We want to wish Columbia Riverkeeper a Happy 15th Anniversary and many more successful years in environmental stewardship!


    December 18, 2013

    John Felton, Rosemere Neighborhood Association, 360‐993‐4939
    Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper, 503‐348‐2436


    County agrees to comply with stormwater pollution laws, fund significant stream restoration in lieu of
    potential federal penalties

    (Vancouver, WA) Clark County Commissioners voted today to improve salmon habitat and reduce dirty stormwater pollution as part of a binding settlement agreement with neighborhood and conservation groups.

    “This is a win for clean water and healthy salmon runs in Clark County,” said John Felton, chair of the Rosemere Neighborhood Association. “This is a good result for the community as a whole.”

    Rosemere Neighborhood Association along with Columbia Riverkeeper and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center challenged Clark County’s violation of laws designed to protect salmon and reduce pollution. After the County lost several rounds of litigation, the County has agreed to take steps to correct the problem. Clark County agreed to comply with the Clean Water Act and to provide $3 million in funding to an independent third party, the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board, that will oversee projects to protect and restore Clark County rivers and streams harmed by stormwater pollution. The settlement will need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal
    court overseeing the lawsuit.

    “This agreement means cleaner water and more salmon for the region as a whole,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “The County will now act to reduce polluted stormwater and invest in protecting salmon. It’s a win‐win.”

    Stormwater pollution, which is created when rain mixes with debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants and flows into storm sewer systems and then into local waterways, is the number one source of water pollution in urban and developing areas in Washington state.

    The settlement comes after a state appeals board found that the County’s stormwater program violated the law—the state appeals board’s decision was upheld by the Washington Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court. At the same time, a federal judge concluded that the County’s stormwater program violated the Clean Water Act and the Court blocked continued implementation of the County’s illegal stormwater program. The federal court ruled last June that the County was liable for violating federal law, exposing it to potentially millions of dollars in penalties and corrective action for projects that were built to inadequate standards.

    Under the County’s disputed stormwater program, damage to rivers and streams from the stormwater pollution had shifted burdens to taxpayers, from developers, to pay for the impacts of urban stormwater runoff. Impacts range from

    Plaintiffs in the litigation were represented by attorneys Janette Brimmer and Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice.



    To view or download Press Release click here (pdf format)

    Related articles:

    The Columbian: Clark County to pay $3.6 million for violating Clean Water Act
    The Oregonian: Clark County to pay $3 million as part of pollution settlement

  • LANDMARK DECISION: Federal Judge Rules Clark County Violated Permit, Clean Water Act from 2008-2011

    Judge Rules Clark County Violated Clean Water Act for Three YearsUS District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled Thursday Clark County violated their Phase I Permit from August 2008 to December 2011 in what marks a landmark decision for stormwater controls in Washington State.

    Rosemere Neighborhood Association, Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center represented by Earthjustice attorneys Jan Hasselman and Janette Brimmer began the fight for enforcing EPA Clean Water standards for polluted stormwater mitigation in 2010 (see story here)

    In January 2011, the Washington State Pollution Control Board ruled that Clark County’s “alternative” plan for monitoring stormwater was illegal (story here). Clark County subsequently filed an appeal of the Pollution Board’s ruling, but in December 2011, Judge Leighton ruled that pending their appeal, Clark County must comply with Washington State’s stormwater guidelines (story here).

    Most recently, in May, Judge Leighton found Clark County’s argument for modified stormwater controls “makes no sense,” as the Pollution Control Hearings Board decision was clear that Clark County’s modified Agreed Order with Ecology was “unlawful” and the Permit Modification was “invalid.”

    “We are elated that our efforts to protect the environment have yielded such a positive result,” said John Felton, Chairman, Rosemere Neighborhood Association.

    From the Summary Judgment ruling:

    Even viewed in the light most favorable to Clark County, the evidence supports no
    conclusion other than Clark County is liable for violating the 2007 Phase 1 Permit during this time period. The 2007 Phase 1 Permit required Clark County to adopt the default stormwater flow control standard or an approved alternative by August 16, 2008. Clark County, however, to adopt a flow control ordinance that complied with the Permit. On December 28, 2011, this Court enjoined Clark County from issuing any permit or authorization that fails to meet the Phase 1 Permit’s flow control standards. Prior to the injunction, Clark County authorized numerous development projects that should have been subject to the Permit’s flow control requirements, but were not. Brimmer Decl., Ex. G–H, Dkt. #22. As a matter of law, Clark County is liable for violating the 2007 Phase 1 Permit from August 17, 2008 until December 28, 2011. Rosemere’s Motion on this point is GRANTED.

    “This is a great day for counties and cities in our state that are working hard to clean up polluted waterways,“ said Janette Brimmer, attorney for Earthjustice. “We applaud the ruling for recognizing that everyone needs to do their share to protect our precious streams, rivers and salmon and that Clark County, like everyone else, must follow the law.”

    To read Judge Leighton’s Order in full: Judge_Leighton_Order_RE_Stormwater_Summary_Judgment_6-6-2013

    Earthjustice Press Release: Earthjustice Clark Co Stormwater WIN final press release June 7 2013

    In the Columbian: County violated Clean Water Act for three years, judge says

    In the Oregonian: Clark County violated federal Clean Water Act for 3 years, judge rules

  • Federal Judge Rules County’s Polluted Runoff Standards Illegal

    US District Court Tacoma


    Janette Brimmer, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340 ext. 1029
    Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper, 503-348-2436
    Mark Riskedahl, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, 503-768-6673
    John Felton, Rosemere Neighborhood Association, 360- 993-4939

    Federal Judge Rules County’s Polluted Runoff Standards Illegal

    Taxpayer subsidy, fish-killing loopholes scrapped by judge as violations to clean water laws

    Tacoma, WA—In a major decision, a federal judge ruled Clark County’s weak development standards that allow too much polluted runoff, violate clean water laws. The ruling, announced late today (Friday) signals an end to the county’s long-time failure to protect rivers, streams and salmon threatened with extinction.

    “This is a great day for counties and cities in our state that are working hard to clean up polluted waterways, “said Janette Brimmer, attorney for Earthjustice. “We applaud the ruling for recognizing that everyone needs to do their share to protect our precious streams, rivers and salmon and that Clark County, like everyone else, must follow the law.”

    Rosemere Neighborhood Association, Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, represented by Earthjustice, challenged Clark County’s adoption of development standards that were too weak to prevent significant harm to the county’s already-stressed rivers and streams.

    Today’s decision by, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton, concludes Clark County was violating its Phase 1 Permit between August 2008 and December 2011. Judge Leighton had issued an injunction against the county at the end of December 2011, requiring the county to comply with its permit going forward while the case was pending. The county has been operating under that injunction since that time.

    Under the federal Clean Water Act, local governments must operate a stormwater system that complies with a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit and limits runoff of stormwater pollutants from new development and redevelopment. The standards in the permit required Clark County to limit runoff from larger storms so that the stormwater runoff was more like natural conditions

    “We are hopeful that Clark County will now stop fighting and see that controlling pollutants in stormwater, and fixing the damage that was caused by those three years, will be a positive step that is good for Columbia River salmon and good for the community,” said Brett VandenHeuvel , Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

    “We are elated that our efforts to protect the environment have yielded such a positive result,” said John Felton, Chairman, Rosemere Neighborhood Association.

    Polluted runoff, or stormwater, is a toxic stew of metals, oil, grease, pesticide, herbicides, bacteria and nutrients. When it rains, the toxic runoff drains off roofs and streets in amounts that seriously degrade water quality and kill marine life.

    The county and an association of developers appealed a January 2011 ruling of the state Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) that the county is out of compliance with federal clean water laws and shifted the burden of protecting clean water from developers to local taxpayers.


  • WA State Supreme Court Denies Clark County’s Stormwater Appeal

    Washington State Temple of Justice

    In a unanimous decision, the Washington State Supreme Court has declined to review Clark County’s appeal of the WA State Court of Appeals stormwater ruling.

    In September 2012, Washington State Court of Appeals upheld the Pollution Control Hearings Board ruling that Clark County’s weak stormwater plan allowed too much polluted runoff and violates both State and Federal laws to protect clean water. For more on that ruling read here: WA Court of Appeals Rules County’s Plan to Manage Polluted Runoff Illegal

    Clark County subsequently appealed that decision to the Washington State Supreme Court which on March 5, 2013 issued a 2 page decision denying Clark County’s petition.

    View the Washington Supreme Court ruling here: WA Supreme Court Rosemere v Clark County Order

    Related articles:

    From The Columbian:

    “Rosemere Neighborhood Association, an environmental advocacy group that, along with Columbia Riverkeeper and Northwest Environmental Defense Center, have been winning at every level in their attempt to force Clark County to follow state default standards for managing polluted runoff.” ……….Read the full article here: Clark County dealt stormwater setback: State high court refuses to review unfavorable ruling

    From The Oregonian: Washington Supreme Court rejects Clark County’s stormwater appeal

  • Federal Judge Lifts Stay on Clark County Stormwater Case

    US District Court Tacoma

    U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton has lifted a stay on a federal lawsuit against Clark County regarding their stormwater management plan. The injunction was issued against Clark County in December 2011, ordering it to follow the state’s default stormwater rules while its stormwater plan was under review by the state Court of Appeals. The stay had been put in place pending the outcome of state court appeals of proceedings before the Pollution Control Hearings Board due to concerns the federal and state cases would conflict.

    From Leighton’s decision:

    “The case involves Clark County’s municipal storm sewer system, and the Department of Ecology’s 2007 Phase I Stormwater General Permit for that system. Ecology subsequently issued Clark County a Notice of Violation, alleging that the flow control policy was inadequate.

    In 2010, Clark County and Ecology entered into an Agreed Order. Rosemere successfully challenged that Agreed Order before the PCHB, claiming (among other things) that it was not compliant with the Clean Water Act. The PCHB’s determination that the Agreed Order violated the Phase I permit and the Clean Water Act was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

    While those proceedings were pending, Rosemere brought this federal case. It seeks to enforce the Phase I permit, and penalties. This Court stayed the proceedings pending the resolution of the state court action.”

    In September, the Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, which said a compromise developed between the county and the state Department of Ecology was not backed by science and was insufficient under federal and state clean water laws.

    Judge Leighton lifted the stay saying,

    “The issues in these cases were never overlapping; they were simply similar. That similarity has been greatly diminished in the aftermath of the Court of Appeals’ decision, and the limitation of the issues the County seeks to litigate further in state court.”

    To read the full decision: Judge Leighton Order Lifting Stay 2-21-13

    Related articles:

    From The Oregonian: Clark County could face tens of thousands of dollars in stormwater fines

    From The Columbian: Lawsuit against county to proceed: Federal courts can hear stormwater dispute, judge rules

  • OPB Announces Results of Its EarthFix Poll: NW Residents Rank Stormwater as Greatest Source of Water Pollution

    OPB EarthfixOPB has published the results of their environmental news segment, EarthFix, water pollution survey.

    Results show respondents ranked stormwater runoff as the greatest source of water pollution.

    From OPB:

    A new poll by Earthfix suggests growing awareness in the Northwest of some of the problems associated with nonpoint source pollution- the diffuse chemicals, bacteria, and sediment carried by rainfall and snowmelt moving downstream through a watershed.

    Urban stormwater runoff beat out a number of other water pollution sources as a top concern in a poll commissioned by EarthFix and conducted by Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall (DHM Research).

    The poll listed a number of sources of water pollution: industrial waste, agricultural chemicals, and sewage, among others.

    When asked what the most significant source of water pollution was in their state, 25 percent of people in the Northwest chose the polluted runoff from roads and paved surfaces.

    To read the full story go to: EarthFix Poll: Do NW Residents Care About Stormwater?

    Survey results can be viewed or downloaded here: EarthFix CWA Survey 2012 PDF

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