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Washington State News Archive

Below are archived news items for the current month. To view a previous month, choose it from the list below.

"Future uncertain at McNeil Island prison"--Tacoma News Tribune
As part of the state’s budget trimming efforts this year, McNeil Island Correction Center is being downsized to smaller minimum security prison. As of this week, only 880 inmates remain on the island, and that number will soon be whittled down to 256. Prison employees who lived in state-subsidized housing will also be moved off the island to save money, and hundreds of jobs may be cut. State officials decided that running ferry services to and from the island was too expensive, and are moving inmates to other facilities around the state. However, the Special Commitment Center, which houses sex offenders, will remain on the island, so ferry services and other functions will not be cut completely. At some point the state will likely build another prison somewhere in western Washington. The use of McNeil Island as a prison area is older than the state itself. - 06/01/2010

"Report urges better beryllium protection at Hanford"--Richland/Pasco/Kennewick Tri City Herald
A report released by the Department of Energy Office of Health, Safety and Security has found that Hanford needs to do a better job of protecting workers from chronic beryllium disease. The Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program implemented at Hanford is an important first step, but the report indicates that more needs to be done. Thirty-six Hanford workers have been diagnosed with the disease, and another 125 have tested positive for beryllium sensitivity. The study said that not all areas of the nuclear facility were implementing the protection program in a timely fashion, and so far no testing has been done to establish how much beryllium contamination might still exist in the plant. Beryllium is a metal that was used in tools for producing plutonium at Hanford. - 06/03/2010

"Groups sue to get more water for fish"--The Olympia
Earthjustice, a conservation group, filed a lawsuit against the Dept. of Ecology on behalf of itself and fishermen’s groups, arguing that the department should let more water spill over dams to protect salmon and steelhead runs. Ecology contends that allowing more water spillage changes the gas content of the water, which could harm other aquatic wildlife. The federal government and the Bonneville Power Administration control the amount of water spillage over dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers, but the Dept. of Ecology sets the water quality standards by which they must abide. - 06/04/2010

"State's high court to decide if honking horn is protected speech"--Everett Daily Herald
A Monroe woman convicted of a noise violation for honking her horn in front of a neighbor’s house for several minutes is taking her case to the state Supreme Court. The woman claims her horn honking was free speech protected by the First Amendment; Snohomish County says the woman violated a county noise ordinance. The woman honked her horn at her neighbor, the president of her homeowners’ association, because she had received a letter from the association telling her to get rid of chickens in her yard. The county contends the woman’s use of the car horn in this case constitutes noise harassment, not free speech. - 06/08/2010

"BPA to spend $2 billion on upgrades"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri City Herald
The Bonneville Power Administration will invest billions of dollars in improving and upgrading power lines in the northwest, which will add jobs to the economy. The projects are financed by federal stimulus money, and include building a McNary-John Day line to transmit wind power; building a line in Garfield, Columbia, and Whitman Counties; building a line between Wasco County, Oregon, and Klickitat County in Washington; and replacing 70 miles of lines on the I-5 corridor from Castle Rock to Troutdale. Many other upgrades are also planned. BPA will also spend about $50 million towards increasing the number of Chinook salmon in the Columbia River. - 06/16/2010

"New claims for jobless benefits rise sharply"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
First-time unemployment claims rose from a monthly average of 450,000 to 472,000 last month, which makes economists fearful that the economic recovery has slowed. At the same time, consumer prices have fallen, which is usually a good thing in the midst of an economic slump. However, the falling prices are due mainly to reduced energy prices, which are often volatile. Altogether, about 9.7 million people in the U.S. are currently receiving unemployment, but extensions approved by Congress are now due to expire unless it passes further extensions soon. Census hiring has temporarily moved the unemployment rate down to 9.7 percent from 9.9 percent, but the private sector added only 41,000 jobs in May. - 06/17/2010

"Chinook Ventures lease in jeopardy over permit violations"--Longview Daily News
The Department of Natural Resources, which is leasing the land to Longview’s Chinook Ventures, may have to evict the company if it doesn’t start cooperating in obtaining the appropriate environmental permits. So far, the state government, federal government, and Cowlitz County have all fined the importing/exporting business or ordered it to stop operations because it was in violation of environmental standards and had not applied for permits needed. The company exports and off-loads coal and cement, and ships and receives raw materials for manufacturing aluminum. Spokespeople for Chinook Ventures have said the company plans on filing an environmental impact plan soon, which state officials say will probably mitigate the problems. - 06/18/2010

"Happy hour or hangover? Liquor privatization bills spark backlash"
Two initiatives are vying for signatures to get on the ballot this year, both of which aim to privatize liquor sales. Initiative 1100>, backed by Issaquah-based Costco, would allow outlet stores that already sell beer and wine to sell spirits as well. Meanwhile, Initiative 1105 is backed by beverage distributors , and would allow private businesses to be licensed to sell spirits, beer, and wine. Opponents of the initiatives say that taking control of liquor sales out of the state’s hands would be a huge blow to state revenue. In addition, some say that I-1100 would put too much power in the hands of big retailers like Costco. Advocates of liquor privatization say that taxes on alcohol sales could still be collected by the state if either initiative passes, and business licensing fees would also make up for lost revenue. - 06/20/2010

"TransAlta deal with state attracts criticism"--The Olympian
The state Department of Ecology made a deal with Centralia coal-burning plant TransAlta to require the plant to reduce mercury emissions by 50 percent and nitrogen oxides emissions by 20 percent. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are not pleased with this decision, saying that the plant should be required to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent. Ecology officials say that the 50 percent reduction is more realistic, and assured that they would pursue action against the company if it did not meet the 50 percent reduction deadline by 2012. TransAlta said it will spend between $20 to $30 million to meet Ecology’s standards, and will see if further reductions are possible after 2012. - 06/23/2010

"Supreme Court rules petition signatures public; Ref. 71 names not immediately available"--Seattle Times
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday on the broad issue of release of petition signatures for initiatives and referenda. The court decided, 8-1, to that those names in most cases must be released, because initiatives are part of the legislative process. However, the specific case of whether names of petition signers of Referendum 71 should be released is still undecided. The Supreme Court allowed the plaintiffs in Doe v. Reed to take their case back to a lower court. The plaintiffs have argued that releasing the names will subject signers to threats and harassment, and will thus violate their first amendment rights. Referendum 71 sought to overturn a bill passed by the Washington state legislature that gave couples registered as domestic partners that same rights as married couples. - 06/24/2010

"WTO rules that Airbus received billions in illegal aid"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The World Trade Organization released a 1,000 page report today that detailed findings that Airbus, a Boeing competitor, received illegal aid from European nations. Boeing officials say the report shows that without the billions Airbus received in launch aid, the company would not have been able to garner the aerospace market share it currently enjoys. Until the mid-1980s, Boeing controlled about 70 percent of the aerospace market—it now controls less than half, with Airbus controlling the other half. Airbus and European officials contend that Boeing also received illegal aid from the U.S. The U.S. may now be able to impose tariffs on European products in recompense. - 06/30/2010

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