Thursday morning's headlines
The UW boosts its political voice in Olympia; ferry rate increases get the AG's go-ahead; and Thurston County puts the brakes on wood energy projects.
UW Seeks to Raise Political Voice Ahead of Session
The University of Washington is hoping to flex more political muscle with state lawmakers. The school's alumni group is hiring top lobbyists from both parties to advocate for higher education when the legislative session begins next month.
UW Impact is a nonprofit, not a political-action committee. It won't back candidates or lobby the Legislature. And although it's concerned about the state budget, "our vision is much bigger than the next legislative session," said Eddie Pasatiempo, a past president of the UW Alumni Association.
There are more than 300,000 UW alumni across the state, and the group is planning to organize meetings in every legislative district in January. The hired lobbyists: former state Republican party chair Chris Vance, and Democratic political consultant Christian Sinderman.
Ferry Rates Can Increase: McKenna
Washington can increase fares on state ferries, despite an informal opinion to contrary issued earlier this week by state Attorney General Rob McKenna.
On Wednesday his office clarified his statement, by noting that the Transportation Commission recommendation to increase fares was instigated before state voters passed Initiative 1053. The Tim Eyman-sponsored measure requires legislators to approve new taxes by a two-thirds vote, and fee increases, like the ferry rate hike, by a majority vote.
McKenna had earlier said the rate hike couldn't be issued because of 1053. But the initiative didn't take effect until December 2nd.
Thurston County Bans New Wood-Waste Projects
Concerns about air pollution related to wood-waste energy projects prompted Thurston County Commissioners to impose a one-year moratorium on any new projects. The move puts a $14 million Evergreen State College initiative in doubt. It seeks to use wood waste instead of natural gas to heat the campus.
The Olympian reports the moratorium vote came after citizen concerns about the effects of five wood-waste-to-energy projects in the region, including a large waste-burning plant in neighboring Mason County:
The moratorium gives the commissioners time to learn more about emerging biomass issues such as air emissions from wood-burning and gasification plants, fuel supply and how biomass plants would fit into the county land-use code, county administrator Don Krupp said.
The Evergreen State College project has received a federal grant that comes with timelines attached. A school spokesman tells The Olympian the commissioner's vote caught them off-guard. ESC will decide by March if it will move ahead with the project, which seeks to reduce the college's carbon footprint.