- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - Gov. Jay Inslee did not get legislation he said was needed to update the state’s water quality standards that are partly tied to how much fish people eat.

Now, he’ll have to decide his next move as federal regulators are preparing to step in and tell Washington what to do in case it fails to finalize a rule by this year.

The state released a draft rule this year that dramatically raised the fish consumption rate to 175 grams a day to protect people who eat about a serving of fish a day. How much fish people eat is part of a complicated formula that determines how clean waters should be. A higher rate theoretically would mean fewer toxic chemicals would be allowed in waters and tougher permitting rules for facilities that discharge pollutants into state waters.

But the governor said the state would not finalize that draft rule until he got approval from lawmakers on companion legislation. Inslee sought a bill that would tackle pollution at its source by giving the Department of Ecology new authority to ban the worst chemicals in products before they foul state waters.

State officials had said the complete package would provide better protection than just the water-quality rule alone. But House Bill 1472 failed to pass during the legislative session that ended last week.

“We’re disappointed,” said Rob Duff, a senior policy adviser to Inslee. “The governor is going to have to reassess his options. We’ll do that in the next couple of weeks.”

Without that toxics legislation, environmental groups this week pushed the governor to revise the draft rule to be more protective. Critics say the draft rule would increase the cancer-risk level for some chemicals to unacceptable levels and must be improved.

Meanwhile, businesses such as Boeing have worried that too-strict rules will hurt economic development because expensive technologies would be required.

The state is under pressure to finalize a rule by this year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which must approve any state plan, also is coming up with a plan for Washington in case the state fails to do so in a timely manner.

If Washington doesn’t finalize its draft rule by Aug. 3, it will have to start the lengthy comment period again.

Chris Wilke, with the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, said the draft rule only gives the appearance of stronger protections, but it actually leaves the water-quality rules unchanged.

“This is simply unacceptable,” he said.

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