Dino Rossi's campaign has remained vague or quiet as to Rossi's position on a host of issues. His campaign website still shows only his announcement video. His Facebook page dwells on poll numbers. Lucky for us he has a voting record. Rossi served in the state Senate from 1997 to 2003 when he quit to run for Governor. Here we look at how he cast his ballot then to see what we can expect if he makes it to D.C.
This week President Barack Obama is meeting with U.S. Senators to discuss ways to limit the amount of carbon companies can belch into the atmosphere, says the New York Times. In light of the negotiations happening in D.C., we decided to look at how Rossi voted on the environment when he was in Olympia.
In 1996 Washington experienced its own Republican Revolution with the GOP taking over both the House and Senate in Olympia. When the 1997 session began, the party immediately went after any and all regulations it deemed bad for business, including environmental protections.
Among the bills the GOP-controlled legislature pushed through that year were two vehemently opposed by the likes of the Sierra Club, People for Puget Sound and the Audubon Society. The first created so-called "environmental excellence" agreements. The agreements were designed to allow companies to circumvent state environmental regulations if the company came up with other ways of keeping its pollution under control.
People for Puget Sound Policy Director Bruce Wishart, who testified against the bill at the time, explains that if a company were to have toxic waste on site they could have entered into an agreement to use bacteria to clean it up even though that wasn't a clean-up technique allowed for under state law at the time.
Wishart says PPS' problem wasn't with allowing companies to find other, presumably cheaper, ways to meet pollution standards. It was that in the version of the bill being pushed by Republicans, the agreements were too flexible and difficult to enforce. "We had worked for 50 years to put in place a myriad of laws to protect our water and land," he says. "[With an environmental excellence agreement] a project proponent could avoid compliance with any environmental law on the books."
Under the bill, a company that was suspected of violating its agreement could continue doing so until a judicial process to revoke the agreement had been fully completed, which could take months. Other sections allowed companies to ignore the State Environmental Protection Act (or SEPA) and the state Water Resources Act which forbids putting anything into the states rivers and lakes that would reduce the existing quality of the water.
Rossi joined his fellow Republicans in voting for the measure.
Governor Locke allowed the agreements to go forward, but vetoed the sections of the bill regarding SEPA, water pollution and agreement violators.
A second bill that year would have allowed small construction projects, and even landfills, to dodge the state's environmental impact study requirements. Again Rossi voted for deregulation. Locke vetoed that bill in its entirety.
Rossi did cast at least one vote that should allow conservationists to breathe slightly easier should he win in November. In 2003 he broke with the far-right faction of the state party (think Pam Roach), and supported a $1.25 excise tax on cars to support air pollution control and pay for a tug boat to safely get other boats through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, reducing the likelihood of one running aground, spilling its fuel into Puget Sound.