Along With Tax Cuts, Boeing is Getting Some Pollution in its Stocking

With all the sweet tax deals Boeing is poised to get from the legislature this year, another early Christmas gift to the aerospace giant is slipping by largely unnoticed.

Gov. Jay Inslee is making clear that when new draft rules are released regarding state water quality standards in December, they will be written in a way that won’t hamper the aerospace industry. That’s a major departure from just a few months ago, when Boeing’s concerns over the new water regs brought budget negotiations to a halt.

The issue is how much fish the state of Washington assumes residents eat, which in turn is used to determine how dirty water in the state can be. The more fish people eat, the more pollution they are exposed to, and so the cleaner the water should be.

As is, the estimated consumption rate is absurdly low; to address the issue and bring state estimates in line with reality, the state began the process of increasing the estimate. But the Republican-led Senate, at the request of Boeing and other industry, tried to delay that from happening by funding another study to determine true consumption levels.

Back in June, House Democrats and Inslee called foul, saying the study was just a delay tactic. The study was ultimately not funded.

But in a clear sign that Boeing always gets what it wants, the fish consumption issue cropped up again, this time in the context of what the state is willing to do to make sure the 777X is assembled here.

At the end of a long list of goodies Inslee’s office wants to offer Boeing is are “balanced, practical solutions that achieve water quality goals … and ensure the state’s ability to retain and attract business.” The rules would also “ensure a competitive economic climate.”

In other words, Boeing is being promised that if it keeps airplanes rolling out of its Renton plant, the state will work with it and be a partner in whatever ends up rolling into the Green River it abuts.

Indeed, Inslee has said gone on record to say that the new water quality rules will not hamper the aerospace industry and that he’s received assurances from Boeing that they are content with the process as it is proceeding.

Boeing isn’t complaining: “We support Governor Inslee’s efforts and believe he will be successful working with the legislature,” a spokeswoman said in an email. “And we support the state’s commitment to find an achievable solution that protects health and the environment and does not negatively impact business operations nor the state’s economy.”

Less content are environmentalists watching the process unfold. As public interest water lawyer Rachael Paschal Osborn wrote on her blog earlier this week: “If and when Ecology does adopt standards that protect public health, it has announced it will also adopt various loopholes that could allow polluters to delay compliance for decades. At his press briefing, Gov. Inslee indicated that there would be no legislation on this issue, raising concerns that a backroom deal may have been struck.”

“Notwithstanding the bureaucratese, the message is clear:  clean rivers are not as important as jobs.  Unfortunately, this formulation does not account for the benefits of clean water to the economy, and the costs to public health of toxic rivers.”

 
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