A group of students will lobby for bills addressing environmental issues such as clean water, safer flame retardants and oil transportation safety in Olympia.
Environmental Lobby Day 2016 will give students the opportunity to speak directly with legislators about environmental policies that impact the community on Monday, Feb. 15. This is an annual effort started in 2014 that has focused on a range of environmental issues.
Senior Julianna Fischer, the president of Students for Renewable Energy, said Environmental Lobby Day is a great way for students to become involved in a democratic society. Students have a powerful voice because they are the future and will pave the way for future generations to come, she said.
“Western is definitely leading the way and has been for decades with sustainability,” Fischer said.
Anna Kemper, the Environmental and Sustainability Programs director, has been planning Environmental Lobby Day 2016 from start to finish. Her role has consisted of planning agenda items, scheduling meetings with legislators and preparing the attendees for the trip.
One of Kemper’s main focuses for the event is lobbying against the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) general permit.
Kemper is concerned specifically with the large manure pits associated with industrial dairy farms, Kemper said.
“All that manure is seeping into the surface water and the groundwater,” she said. “This is not a good thing because 65 percent of Washingtonians get their drinking water from groundwater.”
The group will also lobby for House Bill 1449 and Senate Bill 5087, both of which establish a new set of regulations for oil transportation and safety.
“We are looking at two bills that do not have sufficient regulations for oil transportation and safety and as we know there is a lot of oil that goes through and around the Puget Sound so it really affects us here, not just all over Washington but also in the Bellingham community,” Kemper said.
In addition, Kemper said they will lobby for the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, which would ban six harmful flame retardants that have been designated as “Chemicals of High Concern for Children,” according to the Washington Toxics Coalition.
“Right now in this classroom even, we have flame retardants on all of our chairs and tables and what not, and there are all these dangerous chemicals that are on that, so we need to regulate those,” Kemper said. Persistent chemicals like PCB’s have long been associated with flame retardants in furniture.
Devon Kaufman, an environmental science student, hopes to lobby the state to prioritize sustainable agriculture and the protection of clean drinking water, he said.
“[It has a] massive impact especially now and absolutely in the long term for the drinking water that we have and the health of our population here in Washington state,” Kaufman said.
This is Kaufman’s first time lobbying at Western. He is looking forward to working with professionals in their field, as well as legislators, he said.
Environmental Lobby Day participants will head to Olympia on Monday, Feb. 15.
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