Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a handful of environmental protection bills into law Thursday, including a ban on the sale of children’s drinking cups that contain the plastics hardener bisphenol-A, or BPA.
Washington is the fifth state to outlaw the chemical in children’s food containers and drinking cups. The ban, which covers products sold for children younger than 3, is set to take effect by July 2011. The law also outlaws sales of sports water bottles containing the chemical by July 2012, making Washington the second state after Connecticut to take that step.
“It’s very significant, because again Washington state is leading the way for most of the rest of the country on some very fundamental steps to make our environment and our health better,” said Democratic Sen. Karen Keiser of Kent, sponsor of the bill.
Also signed Thursday: environmental bills to set up an industry-funded recycling program for mercury-containing lights, a bill to get copper lining out of auto brake pads, and a bill regarding biomass energy.
Of particular interest to South Sound, Gregoire signed Republican Sen. Dan Swecker’s flood-control measure. Senate Bill 5704 allows local governments to set up a three-county flood-control district with elected officers who can take taxation proposals to residents along the Chehalis River.
In signing Senate Bill 6248 on children’s sippy cups, Gregoire cited the effects of the hardener on children’s reproductive and developmental health.
Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, had worked on the issue for more than two years and said a federal Food and Drug Administration report on the substance’s potential harm to infants and children tipped the scales after her House bill died in the Senate last year.
“It’s really a great day for children’s health. BPA is bad business for children,” said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal of the Toxics Coalition. She and activists, some with children, watched the signing.
Other signed measures included:
• The Senate version of a mercury-reduction bill that Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, had pushed for. It passed with bipartisan support in both houses. Senate Bill 5543, which Democratic Sen. Craig Pridemore sponsored, requires recycling of all mercury-containing fluorescent light bulbs by Jan. 1, 2013. It also requires lighting producers to pay $15,000 to the Department of Ecology to set up recycling programs.
“It is the last step in getting mercury out of the environment in this state. The one thing we haven’t been able to solve is the mercury vapors in florescent lights. The nice thing about this is it provides options,” Hunt said. “It’s up to the locals for curbside, for drop boxes for things like HazoHouse that we have (in Thurston County), or for mail-in. So local entities can develop their own program to deal with this; it’s not a top-down.”
Hunt said he started working to get mercury out of the environment with a bill in 2001 and continued more recently with proposals that deal with mercury in automotive switches.
• Second Substitute House Bill 2481 lets the state Department of Natural Resources enter into long-term agreements for supplying biomass from state forests to biomass energy firms, according to Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, who sought the legislation. Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, sponsored it.
• SB 6557 makes Washington the first state to phase out copper in auto brake pads. The measure limits the amount of toxic materials such as copper to 5 percent in 2021 – after the Department of Ecology works with an advisory committee to evaluate alternatives.
The Puget Sound Partnership praised the bill, saying copper dust from brakes is toxic to salmon and other marine life.
• House Bill 1876, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jim McCune of Graham, sets up a new Disabled Veterans Assistance Account, funded by donations made by customers at retail outlets statewide.
The money is to pay for services needed by veterans who face financial hardships.
McCune said a separate bill, HB 2720, lets the public and private sectors work together on improvements to the Old Soldiers Home in Orting.
Gregoire signed that bill Wednesday.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688