Dear Friends, 

To start this week’s newsletter, I want to bring you an update on an unfortunate situation unfolding in Mount Vernon.

Earlier this week, tubing from the main pipeline to a pressure gauge within the vault of the Olympic Pipeline failed, leading to a gasoline spill. As of this Tuesday, approximately 25,000 gallons were spilled in to the environment. Approximately 6,700 gallons have been recovered as of Tuesday.

This is a terrible event, underscoring the importance of continued shifts away from fossil fuels towards renewable, clean energy sources. I will continue monitoring this situation and provide updates as soon as I am able.

Here is an update from the Washington Department of Ecology that I received earlier this week:

“Responders identified and stopped the leak on Sunday. Since then, efforts have focused on recovering gasoline and minimizing environmental harm while protecting the safety of responders and the community. In addition to maintaining the containment and absorbent boom and fuel skimming operations in Hill Ditch and Bulson Creek, today’s work involved collecting gasoline remaining on the surface of the field adjacent to the pipeline vault. Currently, 2400 feet of containment and absorbent boom have been deployed. No gasoline or sheen has been seen on the Skagit River. 

Regretfully, wildlife response teams have recovered one deceased beaver which was determined to have died as result of the spill. Members of the public are asked not to touch or relocate affected wildlife and to call the wildlife hotline (1-800-22BIRDS).”

This is a terrible event, and I am so sorry to those who have been impacted in the Mount Vernon region.

Thank you to all of the incredible and dedicated individuals who are working to make this right. We must prioritize ensuring that they have the necessary resources both to address issues like this as they arise, and to prevent further incidents moving forward.

Keep an eye out for additional updates on this front.

Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy” 
Rep. Debra Lekanoff

World to Move Away from Fossil Fuels 

Next, a better update on the environmental action front.

In Dubai, more than 200 nations joined the COP28 meeting to try and make progress on addressing climate change. While there was not much optimism surrounding the event, hosted by the United Arab Emirates, attendees did come away with a deal agreeing to move away from fossil fuels.

According to an official release from the United Nations:

“[The agreement] signals the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era by laying the ground for a swift, just and equitable transition, underpinned by deep emissions cuts and scaled-up finance.

In a demonstration of global solidarity, negotiators from nearly 200 Parties came together in Dubai with a decision on the world’s first ‘global stocktake’ to ratchet up climate action before the end of the decade – with the overarching aim to keep the global temperature limit of 1.5°C within reach.”

Read the full release here.

We should all be thrilled to see such strong action taken on the international stage. While there is still a great amount of work to be done, and we must always keep the pressure on to continue our transition.

Thank you to everyone who represented the United States in Dubai, and to all who came to the table to help create a better world for the next seven generations to come!

Legislative Agenda for Whatcom & Skagit County 

Now right here in the 40th LD we are looking ahead to 2024, setting ourselves up for success as we continue the important work of creating a Washington that uplifts all those who call this place home.

We have an incredible team of representatives, working on your behalf in Washington, D.C., in Olympia, and right here in our local governments. I want to quickly run through some of the priorities that are being discussed in Whatcom County and Skagit County.

The joint legislative agenda that the City of Bellingham, Port of Bellingham, and Whatcom County are drafting is split up in two parts – Budget Requests and Policy Position Statements.

Under the Budget Requests, priorities include additional funding for environmental cleanup and redevelopment, protections for the Puget Sound, a Superior Court Judge to support water rights adjudication, and other actions to improve local infrastructure and habitats.

For Policy Position Statements, priorities include opioid response and behavioral health support, addressing access to broadband and digital equity, supporting affordable housing and strengthening eviction protections, protecting our environment, increasing access to childcare, and emphasizing fiscal sustainability.

Next, in Skagit County your local elected officials are hard at work laying the path forward in 2024 and beyond. 

Legislative requests in the Skagit include additional capital for behavioral health treatment, increasing available housing for working families, an supporting drug taskforces doing important work on teh ground.

You all have done a fantastic job electing strong leaders who are ready to work for Washington, and together we will accomplish so much for Whatcom County, Skagit County, and beyond.

Keep an eye out for updates on these priorities moving forward!

Protecting the Salish Sea 

As those who have read my newsletters and followed along with my work in Olympia, ensuring that we protect the natural beauty of Washington for the next seven generations to come has always been a top priority of mine.

Not only do we enjoy the beauty and resources of the Salish Sea, but there are so many creatures that call it home, and it is our responsibility to ensure that their habitats are protected so they may thrive and reproduce, as they have for countless generations.

As we look to next steps that we can take, I am working to ensure that all interested parties – the state and federal government in the United States, the Canadian government, and tribal nations – come together to collaborate and ensure that we take necessary and consistent precautions to protect this beautiful place on earth.

It is so important that we remain consistent in our regulations, ensuring that no matter where a vessel is flagged or whose sovereign waters they sail through, they are required to respect the Salish Sea, and tread carefully for those who call this place home.

As a 2021 report from the Washington State Department of Ecology wrote:

“The Salish Sea, which includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia, and Puget Sound, is a large and diverse waterbody. A wide variety of commercial, tribal, First Nation, and recreational vessels operate on these waters.

In 2018, nearly 5,000 commercial vessels called on Washington and Canadian ports within the Salish Sea (Washington State Department of Ecology, 2019a). Half of all oil moved in Washington State in 2018, 10 billion gallons, was transported by vessels (Washington State Department of Ecology, 2019b). Commercial and private ferries provide transportation links for passengers, vessels, and cargo in the US and Canada.

The Salish Sea is home to numerous federally recognized tribes and First Nations with treaty reserved aboriginal fishing and hunting rights. Commercial fishing vessels catch multiple species of fin and shellfish. Each year, thousands of people enjoy recreational fishing and boating throughout the Salish Sea.”

Over the years, I have been able to work with fellow legislators, scientists, activists, and more to determine how we can best help the Salish Sea, and what steps we can, and must, take in order to ensure its natural beauty and ecosystems are around for seven generations to come.

Protecting the Salish Sea is very close to my heart, and it’s something that remains a top priority of mine. This natural beauty is home to countless creatures and deserves our love and respect. Thank you to everyone who has made this a priority over the years. Together we will leave a better world for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Supreme Court Update 

Now, to close out this week’s #FantasticFriday, I want to take a quick look at two matters before the Supreme Court – one of which was in direct response to a law right here in Washington State.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court decided not to take up a case about whether state and local governments can ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ children.

This ban on conversion therapy was signed into law in 2018, and I was proud of our Legislature when it was. We should do everything in our power to support our children, not try to change who they are. I am so glad that this will remain the law of the land, and that we can continue working uplift the next generation as they grow into who they are.

Finally, on Wednesday the Supreme Court also announced that they will decide on the availability of mifepristone, a commonly used abortion pill. This is the first case involving a person’s right to choose since they overturned Roe v. Wade over a year ago.

This is a stunning turn, as the conservative majority on the Court declared, when they overturned Roe, that the question of abortion should be left up to the states.

While they have not set a date for oral arguments, they announced they will consolidate two cases – F.D.A. v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and Danco Laboratories v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

No matter how this case turns out, we will always fight for your health freedoms here in Washington State. A person’s right to choose is vitally important, and it will always be a priority of mine. As long as you keep your trust in me to represent you in Olympia, I will fight for this paramount right for all Washingtonians.