Rivers aims to ease environmental requirement for local governments

By Lucas Wiseman
The Columbian/Murrow News Service

OLYMPIA– Local towns and cities may soon be free of an unfunded mandate requiring all publicly owned vehicles to convert to using biofuel or electricity by 2015.

The environmental conversion rule, established in 2007, would “put an unnecessary burden” on smaller towns and cities, Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said. One of her proposals this session, Senate Bill 5099, would address the problem.

The conversion is an unfunded mandate, she said, meaning cities and towns would have to cover the cost of the conversions without financial help from the state, which could lead to personnel cuts.

Rivers’ bill passed in the Senate 46-2 (one member was absent from voting) before it moved onto the House Environment Committee, where it received a public hearing Wednesday.

The bill gives a conversion exemption to any emergency vehicle owned by the state, which includes police cars, firetrucks and ambulances.

Rivers does not expect heavy resistance in the Legislature. She said that she had been working with Democrats as well as the Governor’s office to make sure her bill got the support it needed.

“In its current form, the Governor will sign it,” Rivers said after she testified to the committee.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has spoken repeatedly to the Legislature about the importance of protecting the environment.

The bill is scheduled to be voted on in House Environment Committee today.

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