July 11, 2012

Op-ed: Washington bureaucrats fishing for reasons to make water regulations more restrictive

By Brian T. Hodges Senior Attorney

In a recent op-ed to The Spokesman-Review, Chris Cargill explains that the Washington Department of Ecology is working on revising the state’s estimate for average daily fish consumption.  The agency is proposing to increase the estimate from 6.5 grams of fish consumed per person per day to as much as 275 grams, a jump of 2,200 percent.

Why would the government want to keep track of how much fish we eat, and how come the number is going up so much?  Cargill writes:

Why is the fish consumption rate important?  Increasing the estimate would give Olympia bureaucrats the rationale they need to impose tighter limits on water quality discharge permits, as well as costlier sediment and cleanup rules.  Water quality regulations are based, in large part, on the department’s estimate of fish consumption.  The more fish the government says we eat, the more power unelected bureaucrats have to impose harsher water rules.  And right now—because there is no legislative authority over the rule-making process—there isn’t a thing your lawmaker can do about it.

Ecology’s new numbers work out to about 18 pounds of fish per person every month.  Many people are questioning the soundness of that estimate, and how ratcheting up the consumption rate will affect water quality programs.  While the ultimate impact of revising the numbers remains to be seen, Cargill notes that agency officials are already admitting that the change will create “a challenge for dischargers.”

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