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Boeing Reportedly Pressured State to Delay Update of Water Pollution Rules

InvestigateWest reports that a state plan to update estimates of fish consumption rates and likely set stringent pollution limits was derailed by a lobbying effort, including Boeing concerns it would impede efforts to boost production at Renton.

Fearing new regulations could impede efforts to boost production at its Renton plant and elsewhere, the Boeing Co. pressured state officials last year to slow down a plan to set more stringent water pollution limits, according to the local news website InvestigateWest.

Much of the debate pivots around an outdated estimate of how much fish Washington residents eat. The amount of fish people regularly eat figures into estimates of the level of toxins they consume from fish taken in local waters, which in many areas contain toxic chemicals from decades of industrial discharges. The state Department of Ecology bases the consumption rate on a 1974 estimate showing an average of just one meal per month by each resident. The higher the estimate, the more stringent water pollution regulations must be to protect public health.

Yet Ecology Department officials know that many people eat far more fish than one meal per month -- such as Native Americans and recreational fishermen -- and that the average rate is likely higher in a coastal state such as Washington.

InvestigateWest reports that, pressured by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the state Ecology Department was set to adjust the consumption rate last year and likely issue more stringent rules on pollution. But Boeing and other business interests mounted an intense lobbying campaign that delayed the plan, to the chagrin of Washington Indian tribes and environmentalists.

Boeing reportedly told officials in former Gov. Christine Gregoire’s administration last June the new rules could “cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars and severely hamper its ability to increase production in Renton and make future expansion elsewhere in the state cost prohibitive.”

The Boeing Renton plant, of course, is the primary assembly facility for Boeing's hugely successful 737. The company in recent months has.

For the InvestigateWest story, click here.

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