On December 22, 2015, the Department of Ecology filed began the process of updating rules related to Coordinated Prevention Grants, specifically, WAC 173-312 and 173-313. This process has continued through the spring and summer.

During this rulemaking process, Ecology used an existing advisory committee which included members from county solid waste facilities and environmental health directors from local health jurisdictions.  As the draft rule was being discussed, proposals to change funding allocations and to impose performance criteria that included penalties were opposed by solid waste managers. Comments to this effect were verbalized to Ecology staff and submitted in writing.

Specifically, county solid waste managers sent a letter to Ecology on May 18th outlining their concerns and asking that the rule update be delayed to address these issues. Ecology went ahead with the formal CR 102 process on May 24th.

The solid waste managers submitted formal comments on the harm this rule update would have on their required prevention/implementation functions. WSAC also submitted comments regarding the negative impact changes to funding allocations would have on local budgetary control.

The solid waste affiliate of WSAC, the Washington Association of County Solid Waste Managers (WACSWM) implements the solid waste and household hazardous waste requirements of the state. The local health affiliate of WSAC, the Washington State Association of Local Public Health Officials (WSALPHO) implements the enforcement of certain solid and household hazardous waste regulations of the state.

These are both county departments under the direction and budgetary control of the county commissioners, councilmembers and executives. State shared revenues and financial assistance is budgeted consistent with locally adopted plans and goals. Counties must prioritize and fund these functions based on different local circumstances. This is why WSAC requested that Ecology delay the rule to address the need for the division of these funds to be determined locally.

Counties determine and prioritize the functions of each department and use local discretion to decide if additional revenues are needed. Counties have determined locally which department is handling each required function, such as when solid waste departments take on some of the enforcement functions and when local revenues should be shifted to local health to meet local needs. Because of this, we request the allocation be sent to counties in total, to allocate to each department consistent with local plans and goals.

The draft rule states that a “fixed amount for each single jurisdictional health department regardless of size, or the fixed amount multiplied by one hundred fifty percent for each multicounty jurisdictional health district regardless of size.” This would have an adverse impact on the multicounty jurisdictions and even more so to Tri-County Health in Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties who receive less than a proportional share.

The update also includes a new minimum amount applied to the enforcement allocation which creates an unequal cut to county solid waste departments. This change would shift the burden of the legislative cut wholly to solid waste implementation.

Implementation Allocation Comparison:

2013-2015 implementation $22,592,000

2015-2017 implementation $12,000,000 (a 47% cut from 2013-2015)

2017-2019 implementation $7,000,000 (proposed) (a 42% cut from 2015-2017)

Net cut from 2013-2015: 69% cut

Enforcement Allocation Comparison:

2013-2015 enforcement $5,648,000

2015-2017 enforcement $3,000,000 (a 47% cut from 2013-2015)

2017-2019 enforcement $3,000,000 (proposed) (a 0% cut from 2015-2017)

Net cut from 2013 – 2015: 47% cut

WSAC asked for a delay in the rulemaking so that input from those responsible for county budgeting decisions could be included in the process and proposed changes. Currently, there is a broader discussion taking place about the need for ongoing solid waste funding. Because of local differences, implementation and enforcement programs may require local decisions regarding priorities and local revenue options. These factors are why counties need a direct distribution and the flexibility it provides for allocation between departments.

The proposed draft rule creates an unbalanced approach between prevention/implementation and enforcement. Effective pollution prevention and implementation systems are necessary to prevent or minimize environmental contamination by hazardous and solid waste. Funding for planning, implementing and collecting of these waste streams is the largest share of state funding to prevent the need for more costly cleanups. Yet the proposed changes will create real and lasting harm to local governments’ abilities to provide prevention/implementation programs.

The Ecology regulatory and cost-benefit analysis mentions multiple times the benefit to enforcement programs without mentioning the loss to the implementation programs. Ecology acknowledges that local health jurisdictions indicate that lower amounts of funding make it impossible to continue viable enforcement programs without giving equal attention to the imbalance of harm to the prevention/implementation programs.

Their analysis report states that there is no net cost, without having acknowledged the actual net loss to prevention/implementation programs, or the loss to multi-county health jurisdictions with the new allocations.

In their benefit summary, Ecology states that they will have greater flexibility in funding projects that address the most important environmental issues. Our concern is that any unused monies will not be left to meet local control and local plans, but returned and re-allocated as Ecology chooses, based on the allocation silos this rule update establishes.

Additionally, Ecology states that the threshold they chose was based on their understanding of a lean enforcement program in each county so that they are not underfunded and potentially harm human health.  Yet counties have to balance the regulate prevention/implementation programs with enforcement and have local plans to address the reduction of household hazardous waste for a broader protection of human health.

As a follow-up to the closing of formal comments, WSAC was told that the Director would be signing the update and that the agency would be moving forward to implement the new rule.