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Originally published March 28, 2013 at 4:21 PM | Page modified March 28, 2013 at 4:57 PM

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Legislature should pass sensible bill to conserve energy, water

Water and climate issues stretch into the future. The state Legislature can revise energy and water standards that help one step at a time.

Times editorial columnist

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A smart, practical bill to improve efficiency standards for plumbing products and battery chargers is having trouble getting noticed in the state Senate.

The legislation, which passed the House with bipartisan and community support, needs to be out of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee by Wednesday to stay alive. A hearing now scheduled for Tuesday raises hope.

SHB 1017 is the kind of authentically conservative measure that should be embraced by all lawmakers. Save water, save electricity, save money. Be still my Scottish heart.

The bill sets energy-efficiency standards for battery-charger systems, battery backup and uninterruptible power supplies. Water use is lowered for toilets, urinals, shower heads and various types of faucets.

SHB 1017 is about the next generation of equipment for new construction and remodels by homeowners, schools and government. This is already the standard in California; Oregon is working on the same thing.

For some reason, saving water very close to home is hung up in the Legislature, but lawmakers know the issues at stake. The Yakima Basin water plan is all about better storage and future supplies for communities, agriculture and the environment.

What curious brand of political tension is in play in Olympia that complicates more efficient toilets and shower heads?

Do not feed the public’s cynicism at precisely the time when a broader, positive dynamic is in play.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s successful Climate Action measure launches the state toward meeting pollution limits set into law in 2008. SB 5802, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, puts government leaders in the same room to lay out a path forward.

Fundamental to the legislation is a study that looks at how other states and Canadian provinces deal with climate and pollution issues that have real economic impacts. Ask Washington’s shellfish industry about ocean acidification.

Doing what one can with available resources and looking ahead and planning for the future are basic values.

Last month, Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, laid out the regional impacts of global warming for a rapt audience at the Sound Waters conference at Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island.

The 500 people at the WSU Island County Beach Watchers program were told to expect more of the same: rain. With a catch. Nature’s aqueous savings account, the snowpack, will be disappearing. Capturing and holding water for later use might mean more reservoirs and other storage.

All the bits and pieces have consequences, from less water per flush to selling coal to China, where the power-plant exhaust drifts toward the U.S.

A preliminary phase ended for plans to export Wyoming coal to China from a proposed bulk-cargo shipping terminal in Whatcom County. The question was how broadly the impacts should be studied by the county, state and federal governments.

The essence of more than 124,000 public comments was to look at the environmental and economic effects on cities and counties across Washington. Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, drafted an eight-page letter signed by 11 other lawmakers that had a comprehensive list of issues and concerns.

Govs. Inslee and John Kitzhaber, of Oregon, have asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality to look at long-term environmental and economic costs of all the coal ports planned in Oregon and Washington.

The governors want the review completed before contracts for coal delivery to China are signed.

This week, the state Senate environmental committee heard from a global-warming skeptic who focused on the weather in the Antarctic. His theories are apparently on thin ice in the Arctic, which he skipped over.

The New York Times reported China wants to open a golf course in northern Iceland, on the Arctic Circle. Really.

Not too hard to imagine China wants to stake a claim on a shipping passage that will emerge as the ice melts.

These topics are not going away. Meanwhile, think of the water and energy that SHB 1017 will save.

Lance Dickie's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is ldickie@seattletimes.com


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