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News Release: Federal judge asked to compel cleanup of cancer-causing chemicals in the Spokane river

News release

For immediate release

Federal judge asked to compel cleanup of cancer-causing chemicals in Spokane River

Lawsuit filed 10 years ago has not moved government to protect river, community

Link:  Motion for Summary Judgment

Spokane – River advocates are asking a federal judge to rule on their 10-year-old lawsuit to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a cleanup plan for one of Washington State’s most polluted rivers. The Spokane River is heavily polluted with PCBs. The lawsuit began in July 2011, when river advocates notified EPA of their intent to sue on behalf of the river unless EPA complied with federal law. In 2015, a federal judge ordered EPA to come up with a schedule for a cleanup plan. EPA has yet to write a cleanup plan for the Spokane River.

“The days of using the Spokane River as a chemical dump are over,” said Tom Soeldner of the Spokane River Team. “Year after year we waited patiently. Now we are asking the federal courts to stop polluters from flushing PCBs into the River.”

The federal Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, requires that polluted waters be fishable and swimmable. Although the State of Washington and EPA have been aware of PCB pollution for decades, the Spokane River still does not have a cleanup plan for PCBs.  Washington State Department of Ecology (WADOE) has continued to issue permits to polluters allowing them to dump PCBs into the Spokane River with no controls.

Washington Department of Health has issued a health advisory on PCB-contaminated fish in the Spokane River that has been in place for many years. PCBs have adverse effects on animals and human populations, including causing cancers in humans.  PCBs move up the food chain. Low concentrations in river water result in high concentrations in fish and other river life.

“‘Patience’ is the one word describing river advocates,” said John Allison, a Spokane River Team member. “Year after year we’ve waited. We’ve run out of hope and time with the agencies responsible for the Spokane River. We are returning to the courtroom to ask the federal judge to rule for the river and life.” 

“We need a clean, flowing water for the return of salmon,” said Kathy Dixon of the Spokane River Team. “Salmon along with our children and the river’s life are compelling reasons to comply with federal law and move forward with a cleanup plan.”

BACKGROUND:  10 YEARS OF LITIGATION TO CLEAN UP THE SPOKANE RIVER

PCBs are a group of industrial compounds associated with liver dysfunction and cancer, and are now banned in the United States. Washington State has formally recognized that the Spokane River is impaired for PCBs since 1996. When a river is listed for PCBs, the federal Clean Water Act requires binding cleanup targets before issuing any permits that would add more PCBs to the Spokane River.  Such a cleanup plan has never been completed for the Spokane River, but state and federal agencies have issued pollution permits anyway, failing to include numeric limits.

In 2011, the WADOE abandoned efforts to adopt a PCB cleanup plan, largely because of political opposition by Spokane River polluters, who would be required to reduce PCBs in effluent by up to 99% to meet both Washington State and Spokane Tribe water quality standards. These polluters include Inland Empire Paper, Kaiser, and the Liberty Lake, Spokane County, and City of Spokane sewage treatment plants. Instead, Ecology formed the Spokane River Toxics Task Force and required the polluters to participate, but also gave them control over the goals and activities of the Task Force.

Subsequently EPA issued discharge permits to three Idaho dischargers – the City of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Hayden Water & Sewer District – also not requiring PCB limits and also requiring participation in the Toxics Task Force.

Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) filed a citizen lawsuit against EPA in 2011. The Spokane Tribe of Indians intervened in support of the citizen lawsuit, and the Department of Ecology, Spokane County and Kaiser intervened to defend EPA. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein ruled in March 2015 that EPA’s failure to require a clean-up plan was an abuse of discretion and ordered EPA to submit a plan to the Court by July 2015.

EPA, Ecology, Kaiser, and Spokane County appealed the ruling, but EPA withdrew its appeal and submitted a document (which fails to require a cleanup plan) to the District Court. In April 2016 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the Ecology-County-Kaiser appeal in a one-paragraph decision. This meant that the legal challenge to the EPA’s “non-cleanup plan” document could move forward in District Court. 

During the past five years, Spokane River advocates have waited patiently for WADOE and EPA to complete a cleanup plan and begin its implementation.  In the absence of a cleanup plan, Sierra Club and CELP are now asking the federal judge to compel a cleanup plan under the law.

Sierra Club and CELP are represented by Marc Zemel of Smith & Lowney, a Seattle firm specializing in Clean Water Act litigation. The Spokane Tribe of Indians is represented by Ted Knight.

Contacts:

    Tom Soeldner, Spokane River Team  waltsoe@gmail.com 

    John Allison, Spokane River Team. jdallison@eahjlaw.com 


CELP’s New Staff Attorney

Press Release

June 29th, 2021

We are delighted to introduce CELP’s new Staff Attorney Maggie Franquemont. Maggie started with CELP on June 21st, 2021 and is taking over Dan Von Seggern’s position as our Staff Attorney.

Maggie has been passionate about water conservation since she was a small child growing up on Colorado’s Front Range. She took a circuitous path to Washington through Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon earning her B.S. in Land Rehabilitation from Montana State University, working for Yellowstone and Mount Rainier National Parks, and earning her J.D. from University of Oregon along the way. Maggie has focused her legal career on Environmental & Natural Resource Law as well as Ocean & Coastal Law. She is passionate about everything water and is thrilled to be working with CELP to protect Washington’s water resources. She is an avid skier, paddler, and rock climber and also spends time backpacking, painting, and sewing. Her favorite river in Washington is whichever one she is headed to next, and her favorite dinosaur is the Stegosaurus.

You can reach her at MFranquemont@Celp.org


Washington Water Watch: May & June Edition

EDIT: The newsletter includes a save the date for Celebrate Waters. The date has since changed to September 9th.

Press Release

Dear Friends,

As we approach summer, we at CELP are keeping an eye on our water resources. This winter and spring we received plenty of snow that resulted in a heavy snowpack. Snowpack is a critical frozen reservoir that is released over the spring and summer as it melts. This spring much of the state has had warmer temperatures and below normal precipitation. Even with our current snowpack, there is concern that it will not last through the driest parts of the summer. Soil moisture is also an indicator of how much snowpack makes it into the rivers. In dry conditions the soil acts as a sponge and less snowmelt is added to stream flows. For our rivers that rely on precipitation more than snowpack there is even greater concern.

The Department of Ecology issued a drought advisory the end of May for most of Washington state, including all areas east of the Cascade Mountains, portions of southwest Washington and the Washington coast. The advisory acts as an early warning of possible drought to promote awareness and readiness. This is the first time the Department of Ecology has issued a drought advisory since it received the authority to do so from the Legislature in 2020. In the 2020 legislative session, CELP supported and advocated for Ecology’s drought preparedness bill. We are hopeful this action improves awareness among water users and increases readiness to respond to drought and conserve water.

As we all come out of the long COVID lock down, change and growth are coming to CELP. We are thrilled to introduce our new Water Policy Outreach Coordinator as well as our new Legal Intern. We are looking forward to them bringing new energy and ideas to our work. While we have adapted to working remotely, we are excited to be going back into the office soon and getting to work as a team in person. And this month we say goodbye to a long-time employee, our staff attorney Dan Von Seggern. We wish Dan the best in his new position, and we are excited to add a new staff attorney. 

In this issue you will find an update on our legislative success, an update on watershed restoration plans, a welcome to our new team members, water and fish in the news, a GiveBIG thank you, and a save the date for Celebrate Waters.

Sincerely,
Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/35hoGMu


Introduction: Water Policy & Outreach Coordinator

Press Release June 7th, 2021

We are thrilled to introduce Hillary Jasper Rose as our new Water Policy & Outreach Coordinator!

Hillary is a graduate of Vermont Law’s Masters of Environmental Law and Policy program. She has worked in community outreach and advocacy in recent years, including work with Seattle City Council, Seattle Public Utilities, local nonprofit organizations, and grassroots movements. She holds a passion for public trust and equitable access to resources. She strives to educate and engage communities across the state, sharing information, legislation, and opportunities for individual involvement in environmental sustainability. Hillary has traveled and lived all over the world, but she is delighted to call this beautiful state her home.

You can reach out to her at HJRose@Celp.org


Employment Opportunity: Staff Attorney

UPDATE JUNE 3, 20201: POSITION HAS BEEN FILLED

Center for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP) is seeking candidates for a full-time Staff Attorney position in Seattle, WA. The Center for Environmental Law & Policy is a statewide organization whose mission is to protect, preserve and restore Washington’s waters through education, policy reform, agency advocacy, and public interest litigation.

Applicant must have at least two years of environmental law experience, including familiarity with Washington water resource and administrative law. Litigation, legislative and/or public outreach experiences a plus. Demonstrated skills must include: excellent writing and analytical skills, strong legal research skills, familiarity with water resource science principles and methods, strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work collaboratively with staff and volunteers, and commitment to the public interest.   

Under the direction of the Executive Director, duties include but not limited to the following: 

  • Agency Advocacy: Represent CELP in public meetings, review and comment on draft rules, policies, reports, and permits, draft and edit comments for coalition groups, and advise ED and Board on course of action regarding agency decisions.
  • Policy and Legislative Work: Analyze pending or potential legislation and advise CELP’s lobbyist and staff on potential impacts. Work with CELP’s lobbyist and Legislative Committee to develop responsive strategies, including and drafting amendments or alternative legislation. Coordinate with tribal, federal, state, and local government organizations and non-governmental organizations regarding legislative issues.
  • Public Interest Litigation:  Coordinate with CELP volunteer attorneys and co-plaintiffs, including representation of co-plaintiffs when appropriate, on all litigation matters.  Duties may include brief writing, discovery processes, representation at hearings and oral arguments.  File and review public records requests.  Staff the CELP Litigation Committee, track and coordinate CELP participation in litigation, and provide reports to ED and the CELP Board. Coordinate with other public interest water and environmental litigation law firms and organizations.
  • Public Outreach: Draft and edit press releases, website and opinion pieces related to CELP’s legal and policy work. Research and draft white papers on policy issues.  Present on CELP’s substantive work at CLEs, conferences and other public forums. 
  • Continuing Legal Education: Organize and conduct CELP’s public CLE activities, including identifying pertinent topics, recruiting speakers, and hosting events.

Requirements:

Juris Doctor Degree and at least two years of relevant environmental law experience.

Candidate must be a member of the Washington Bar or a member in a state where there is reciprocity.

E-mail cover letter, resume, writing sample (not more than 10 pages), transcript, and references to Trish Rolfe, jobs@celp.org.  Salary is $45,000 – $48,000 DOE plus generous leave policy, health benefits and retirement. CELP will also pay attorney’s Washington Bar dues. The position is available immediately and will be filled as soon as possible.

CELP is an equal opportunity employer and actively works to ensure fair and equal treatment of its employees and constituents regardless of differences based on culture, socioeconomic status, race, marital or family situation, gender, age, ethnicity, religious beliefs, physical ability, or sexual orientation. CELP encourages Women, BIPOC and LGBTQ applicants to apply.


Help CELP protect our Waters with GiveBIG

A picture of a river with large rocks, tress on the side and mountain in the background. Two kids each sitting on a rock in the river.

Our rivers, streams, and drinking aquifers need help.

GiveBIG is Washington’s online day of giving to support our state’s nonprofit organizations. This year GiveBIG takes place on May 4th-5th and early giving opens today, April 20th. You can make a GiveBIG gift now through May 5th.

HELP US REACH OUR $5,000 GOAL

A generous supporter is challenging us to raise $5,000 to match their $5,000 donation. Help us protect our waters now and for future generations.

As a small nonprofit, every donation is critical to continuing our work. Your gift, in any amount, is priceless. You can protect our waters now, for fish, and for future generations.

BE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER

Together we can make Washington better for us all. Help CELP achieve our vision of a Washington state with adequate and sustainable water supplies to support healthy ecosystems, thriving fish and wildlife, and robust communities.

Post about your gift on social media and encourage your friends to participate in GiveBIG. Connect with other donors using the hashtags #GiveBIG and #CELPwater

Help us fundraise by creating your own fundraising page to support CELP. More info. Any questions, email Kayla Magers development@celp.org.


Washington Water Watch: March Edition

Dear Friends,

It has now been over a year since the start of the pandemic, and all our lives have changed. We hope you and your loved ones have stayed safe and well. All of us at CELP have adapted to our new normal of working remotely and spending a lot of our time in Zoom meetings. But even with these challenges, we have been able to continue our important work to protect and restore Washington’s waters. We have participated in watershed restoration work groups finding solutions to restore stream flows impaired by new permit exempt wells, and we continue working with stakeholders to find solutions to water speculation and improve the water trust and banking systems.

We have also taken this time to find inspiration and think about how CELP accomplishes our mission of protecting, preserving, and restoring waters across the state now and into the future. We envision a water management system in Washington state that is more equitable and sustainable to support healthy ecosystems, thriving fish and wildlife, and robust communities. These are big goals, but with your help, we are ready to do the work.

In this issue you’ll find a wrap up of Clean & Abundant Water lobby week, an update on the legislative session, the Nooksack Indian Tribe and Lummi Nation’s webinar on adjudication, CELP’s letter to Ecology with concerns over Crown Columbia’s application for an area-wide water permit, water and fish in the news, and appreciation for our members.

Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

Read the full newsletter here.


Employment Opportunity: Water Policy Outreach Coordinator

UPDATE POSITION HAS BEEN FILLED

CELP is hiring a Water Policy Outreach Coordinator.

Water Policy Outreach Coordinator

Part-time: 20 hours per week

Water Policy Outreach Coordinator will work closely with CELP’s ED, Staff Attorney, Government Affairs Specialist and Board to build public support to accomplish program goals by coordinating community engagement to influence water policy change.

Duties include the following:

Works with the director to devise and recommend a plan and strategy for organizing and engaging volunteers and community allies.

Identifies recruits and organizes volunteers

Develops and implements a variety of engagement strategies including on-line and face-to-face to develop networks to support CELP goals.

Maintains and develops new partnerships with affinity groups who share many common goals and values. 

Develop relationships with community leaders, tribes, other organizations and officials who can influence water policy change.

Plan and implement community outreach events to generate public support with agency decision makers and in the media.

Identifies and is responsible for developing strong relationships with key people of influence including community leaders and public officials to influence positive campaign or program outcomes.

Coordinates and measures success of activities with manager and campaign or program leads to ensure progress towards mission and goals.

Performs administrative and clerical duties as assigned by supervisor.

Performs miscellaneous duties as directed.

Requirements, Knowledge & Skills:

  • 4-year degree preferred.
  • At least 1-year experience working with volunteers in the environmental movement, political campaigns, or other, similar organizations to plan and implement grassroots campaigns.
  • Basic knowledge of current environmental issues affecting Washington.  
  • Excellent writing and editing skills. 
  • Demonstrated skill in writing and producing newsletters.
  • On-line organizing experience is a plus.
  • Passion for the environment and a belief in the power of community organizing and policy advocacy.
  • Excellent verbal communication skills and demonstrated ability to clearly articulate ideas and easily strike up conversation with diverse groups of people.
  • Strong organizational and problem-solving skills and ability to work effectively in action-oriented office.
  • Ability to work independently, cooperatively and effectively with public, staff and volunteers. Strong ability to network, build trust, and build working relationships.
  • Ability to be flexible and responsive in a fast-paced and changing environment
  • Ability to think strategically and plan programs and campaigns and to collaborate effectively with others
  • Access to reliable transportation and willingness to accommodate community-based scheduling needs (i.e. meetings held in the evenings and on weekends at offsite locations)
  • Valid driver’s license, satisfactory driving record, and proof of auto insurance required.
  • Proficient computer skills including Microsoft Office, social networking sites, and database software.

The CELP office is in Seattle, however current COVID restrictions will require most work to be done remotely. Once restrictions are lifted a large portion of the job will be traveling around the state to relevant communities and locations.

$16.75 – $17 per hour plus accrued vacation and sick leave. Travel allowance and transit benefit available. 

E-mail cover letter, resume, and references to Trish Rolfe, trolfe@celp.org by May 15, 2021. Please, no phone inquiries.

CELP is an equal opportunity employer and actively works to ensure fair and equal treatment of its employees and constituents regardless of differences based on culture, socioeconomic status, race, marital or family situation, gender, age, ethnicity, religious beliefs, physical ability, or sexual orientation. CELP encourages BIPOC and LGBTQ applicants to apply.


Washington Water Watch: Jan. & Feb. Edition

February 16th 2021 

Happy New Year! We are starting the new year with a new administration, and with it hope for federal progress on clean and abundant water, strengthening tribal treaty rights, and modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.  

Photo of a winding road through snow and trees taken from an aerial view.

Here at home, we started the year with an atmospheric river soaking the pacific northwest. Seattle had the wettest start to the year in history. Olympia and Hoquiam also broke rainfall records in the first few days of the year. Now in February, snowstorms have moved across the state blanketing Seattle and the Puget Sound area. Snowpack in the Olympics and Cascades are at normal or slightly above normal levels. This is all good news for our stream flows for now. 

Everyone at CELP wants to say a big THANK YOU to all of our supporters. We know 2020 was a difficult year for many people, organizations and businesses and we are immensely grateful for your donations, time, ideas, and dedication to protecting our waters. With your support, we were able to face challenges head on and continue our work protecting our waters. We look forward to what we will accomplish this year together.

In this issue you’ll find introductions of our new board members and changes in board leadership, information on the 2021 legislative session and the bills we are tracking, salmon in the news, Rachael Osborn’s paper reflecting on the Water Resources Act of 1971, a call for applications for our 2021 legal internship, and congratulations to our 2020 Water Hero honoree and longtime friend Bob Anderson. 

We are hopeful for the future. As we move forward this year, our priorities are getting Streamflow Restoration Plans approved and getting water restoration and mitigation projects in these plans funded. We are also working to help get the adjudications of the Nooksack and Colville watersheds started and working with Ecology to restart instream flow setting for unprotected watersheds. These are big plans, but with your continued support we can make great strides to achieve them. 


Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read the full newsletter here: https://conta.cc/3qstIii


Nooksack River Adjudication

What is an adjudication?

Sustainable management decisions about water, a precious shared resource, cannot be made without a baseline knowledge of water rights in a basin. Under Washington law, only a court can make a final determination of which water rights are valid. Adjudication is a court proceeding where the judge examines all water use in a river basin, and determines the extent and validity of water rights in that basin.

Why adjudicate the Nooksack?

The Nooksack is an important river system that supports native runs of wild chum, chinook, coho, and pink salmon, as well as other salmonids including bull trout and steelhead. Protecting the river, its salmon runs, and Tribal fishing rights requires that streamflows be protected. Like other rivers in Washington, diversions of water from the Nooksack threaten habitat for salmon. The Nooksack also appears to suffer more than many other rivers from illegal, unpermitted diversions of water.  By adjudicating water rights in the basin, the state can determine how much water is being legally used as well as gaining control of unpermitted (and illegal) diversions of water.

The Tribes with reserved fishing rights in WRIA 1 (the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe) have requested action by the Federal Government to judicially determine their reserved water rights, including water for instream flows to protect their rights to fish and in turn the habitat on which those rights depend.

What is CELP doing on this issue?

We urged the Department of Ecology to select the Nooksack River basin (WRIA 1) as the next Washington basin to be adjudicated. You can read our full letter here.

CELP is now supporting funding in the legislature (SB 5092 / HB 1094) to start the adjudication process for the Nooksack River basin. Find more on this year’s remote legislative session and the bills we are tracking here.