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

  • EFSEC Scoping Hearing for Tesoro Savage Crude Oil Project

    Crude Oil Trains

    As has been reported this week, the Port of Vancouver held a second vote and again unanimously approved the proposed Tesoro/Savage Crude Oil Terminal, the largest such facility in the Pacific Northwest.

    The Tesoro/Savage project now faces a yearlong examination by the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (or EFSEC). EFSEC will make a recommendation to Washington Governor Inslee on the project and, then, the Governor will make the final decision to deny or approve the terminal.

    There are 2 important EFSEC meetings regarding the proposed Crude Oil Terminal coming up this week.

    It is important for everyone to attend these meetings and voice their opposition to the Tesoro Savage Terminal.

    Tuesday, October 29 EFSEC Scoping Hearing for Tesoro Savage Project

    The purpose of this hearing is for the public to ask EFSEC to review and to take into account the total pollution load to the environment from start to finish.
    When: Tuesday, October 29 – 6:00 – 9:00 PM
    Where: Clark College, Gaiser Student Center (1933 Fort Vancouver Way)

    There will also be a rally outside before the meeting at 5:00 PM


    The night before – Monday, October 28 – EFSEC Public Information Hearing at 6:00 PM.

    What: EFSEC Public Information Hearing
    When: Monday, October 28 – 6:00PM
    Where: Clark College, Gaiser Student Center (1933 Fort Vancouver Way)

    Columbia Riverkeeper has a petition on their website for those who wish to sign and send a message to Governor Inslee and EFSEC to “Deny the Proposed Tesoro Savage Pipeline-on-Wheels Project”. You can find the petition here: Deny the Proposed Tesoro Savage Pipeline-on-Wheels Project

  • 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

  • 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

  • EPA Rights Complaint Process Changes Fail To Ease Petitioner Concerns (reprinted w/permission from Inside Washington Publishers)

    This article originally appeared in Inside EPA Weekly Report on February 22, 2013. It is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Inside Washington Publishers. Copyright 2013. No further distribution is permitted.

    Click here to view article (pdf format): EPA Rights Complaint Process Changes Fail To Ease Petitioner Concerns

  • Communities Letter RE Sportsmen’s Act of 2012

    This letter, signed by 35 environmental activists in 16 states and territories, was sent to Senators Tester, Reid, and Boxer:


    Dear Senator:
    It has come to our attention that S. 3525, the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 – scheduled for a U.S. Senate floor vote immediately after Thanksgiving 2012, contains language that appears to exempt certain munitions constituents, such as lead and propellants, from the Toxic Substances Control Act. [See Section 121 (a).] We are concerned because the releases of such substances, including lead, perchlorate, RDX, DNT, etc., have been widely released into the environment, posing serious risks to both human health and the natural environment.

    To view the full letter, click here Sportsmen’s Act S3525 Communities Letter

  • 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

  • WA Court of Appeals Rules County’s Plan to Manage Polluted Runoff Illegal


    September 26, 2012

    Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice
    Dvija Michael Bertish, Rosemere Neighborhood Association
    Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper
    Mark Riskedahl, Northwest Environmental Defense Center

    WA Court of Appeals Rules County’s Plan to Manage Polluted Runoff Illegal

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

    Tacoma, WA – In a major decision with statewide impacts in Washington State, a court of appeals ruled Clark County’s weak development rules that allow too much polluted runoff violate state and federal laws to protect clean water. The ruling, announced late Tuesday, signals an end to the county’s on-going failure to protect rivers, streams and salmon threatened with extinction.

    “We applaud the court of appeals for recognizing that Clark County’s refusal to comply with clean water laws is unfair to other cities and counties in our state, not to mention industries, that continue to work hard to clean up our polluted waterways,” said Dvija Michael Bertish of the Rosemere Neighborhood Association. “As residents of Clark County who enjoy fishing and swimming in our local rivers, we’re fed up with our elected officials’ attempts to compromise our health and safety—especially when the law requires otherwise.”

    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. “The Court of Appeals ruling comes down to this—clean water is our future and everyone needs to do their share to keep our water clean,” said Jan Hasselman from Earthjustice, who is representing the groups.

    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.

    Specifically, the PCHB found Clark County’s stormwater program:

    • Is not based on any science and failed to protect water quality and salmon.
    • Unlawfully exempts development projects that “vested” prior to April of 2010.
    • Unlawfully allows Clark County to shift resources from its existing retrofit program to mitigate for new development.
    • Unlawfully fails to require “low impact development” at new development and mitigation sites.

    The Court of Appeals concurred. “Not only has Clark County violated the law, it is ignoring the very real economic and quality of life costs associated with dirty stormwater pollution,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “The County’s rogue approach to dealing with stormwater pollution ignores the very real costs of increased flooding, polluted drinking water, and toxics in fish. It’s time stop using outdated thinking and transition to much greater reliance on low impact development and better land use planning. The stakes are too high for delay.”

    The county has 30 days to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court if it chooses. Additionally, a federal court has stayed an enforcement action against the county until the appeals court rules, and is likely to open the case now that the appeal is resolved.

    A copy of the Court of Appeals ruling can be downloaded here: WA COURT OF APPEALS D2 41833-9-II PUBLISHED OPINION

    A copy is available online here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=418339MAJ

    Other news links:

    Editorial: County Keeps Hearing ‘No’ – Stormwater rules fight is being lost in the courts; it’s time to give up

    Clark County loses stormwater ruling

    Washington court rules against Clark County in polluted runoff case

    Clark County loses polluted runoff case


  • Communities’ Letter on EPA’s Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance

    Vapor Intrusion: image source epa

    Vapor Intrusion: image source epa

    On July 26, 2012, a letter was sent to EPA’s Richard Kapuscinski from environmental organizations and citizens groups from all over the country – including Rosemere Neighborhood Association – concerned about EPA’s pending Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance.

    The letter begins:

    We, the undersigned are concerned that pressure from polluters, chemical producers, and property owners may weaken elements of EPA’s pending Vapor Intrusion Guidance, and we urge EPA to adopt an investigatory approach that is truly protective of Americans exposed to highly toxic vapors in their homes, schools, workplaces, and other buildings.

    On July 6, 2012, Inside EPA, reported:
    Industry is criticizing EPA’s approach to calculating the potential for subsurface contamination to migrate to indoor air, raising concerns over a technical document expected to be a component of the agency’s final vapor intrusion guidance and over a Region III proposal to offer government-funded mitigation for vapor intrusion at homes near a Superfund site in Pennsylvania.
    Industry argues the so-called attenuation factors in the EPA documents are unnecessarily conservative and flawed because of incorrect assumptions of the rate at which contamination flows into residences.

    The determination whether vapor intrusion poses a health threat at any existing building should not be based solely upon models and predictions. Models cannot account for changes in operating conditions, occupancy, building modifications, or structural changes such as adding utility lines that penetrate floors or settling that cracks slabs. One test is worth 1000 expert opinions. Decisions should be based upon multiple lines of evidence, including indoor air testing, subslab soil-gas sampling, and outdoor air monitoring.

    To read the entire letter: Communities’ Letter on EPA’s Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance

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