This month’s Southwest District Council meeting had an environmental theme. Two guests spotlighted that. First, Craig Kenworthy, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency:
In our photo, Kenworthy was showing a test strip that indicated air dirty enough for a burn ban. He gave the SWDC a primer about the most common particulates in our area – mostly fine particles that come from engine combustion – diesel and gas, cars, rail, or ships. (Added – here’s his slide deck):
Then there’s woodstove smoke, as woodstoves are used all around Puget Sound and are particularly dense in some part of Pierce County where natural gas is not available for home heating.
Kenworthy said that collective matter is what they look at trying to keep down, as it creates a health risk. He moved from there to talk about diesel in general as – while the others are a health risk to lungs and the circulatory system – diesel is the only item that is listed as a carcinogen. That’s why he said they’ve been working with the port to reduce the amount of diesel that’s being used by the vehicles that come and go with the freight. He said that one goal is to get the truck fleets to convert to newer vehicles that can burn
diesel 90 percent more efficiently than trucks made prior to 2010.
Originally the Northwest Seaport Alliance (the ports of Seattle and Tacoma) had a deadline of this past January 1st to only accept trucks that met the newer emissions standards, but that was extended to next January.
Kenworthy also talked about South Park as an area of air-pollution concern, but didn’t go into much detail other than to say its on their watch list for assistance.
In Q&A, he was asked about idling vehicles – he said that in areas where vehicles/drivers congregate, it’s especially important to shut the engine off while waiting – ferry lines and drawbridges, for example.
And before wrapping up, Kenworthy mentioned that his agency will have air-quality-measuring devices
that can be distributed to people around the area to monitor the air where they live.
Second guest was 34th District State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, now a West Seattle resident, who chairs the House Environment Committee.
He started by discussing that helping save the Southern Resident Killer Whales is a priority, with Governor Inslee having set up a task force earlier this year.
Another major topic: Oil transport via rail through our region. Though action was taken long ago regarding transport by water, to minimize the chance of disastrous spills, Fitzgibbon noted that much of the oil sent to North Sound refineries goes by rail, so that’s a big concern and a state priority for prevention and preparedness. As of just this week, he noted Burlington Northern Santa Fe has a contingency plan in place in case of a spill, as the result of legislation, similar to the one the state has in case of a marine oil disaster.
During the Q&A, Fitzgibbon was asked about vessel noise affecting the endangered orcas. He said some relief might come from the state, if it could run an electric ferry. He said the Volkswagen emissions settlement had included more than $100 million for the state and there’s talk that some of that might go toward an electric ferry. It would be more likely to run from downtown Seattle’s Colman Dock than from Fauntleroy, though.
The Southwest District Council meets first Wednesdays most months (but agreed to skip July this year since the first Wednesday is Independence Day), 6:30 pm, at the Senior Center/Sisson Building. Our coverage of SWDC is archived here, newest to oldest.