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Court affirms King County’s use of wastewater ratepayer funds from Brightwater
The Washington State Supreme Court has upheld King County’s use of ratepayer funds to site the Brightwater Treatment Plant and pay for other environmental programs.
“This question has been through five years of legal scrutiny, and I’m pleased the state’s high court agrees it is appropriate to consider the health of our entire environment when making major decisions about projects and programs,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
In a unanimous decision Thursday, the state Supreme Court rejected claims that King County used sewer ratepayer funds for projects outside the scope of wastewater utility business. The lawsuit was filed in 2008 in Pierce County Superior Court by the Cedar River and the Soos Creek water and sewer districts.
“We are thrilled with the Supreme Court’s decision upholding King County’s programs to protect and enhance water quality. We won on the merits of our case, establishing King County’s record as a careful financial and environmental steward of our resources,” said King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of King County’s Regional Water Quality Committee. “The Supreme Court’s ruling that King County’s use of ratepayer funds on behalf of a wide variety of clean water activities is legal and appropriate under state law and the districts’ agreements, is especially satisfying.”
Rulings in Pierce County Superior Court had largely rejected the districts' claims, and the Washington State Supreme Court has now affirmed those rulings.
“We are pleased the Court agreed with us on every count,” said Christie True, Director of King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks. “Our staff is dedicated to the mission of providing high-quality wastewater treatment services and ensuring clean water for all the people of our region.”
King County demonstrated during court proceedings that its wastewater expenditures were authorized as part of the Regional Wastewater Services Plan that was adopted in 1999 following an extensive regional process involving all interested stakeholders, including the plaintiffs.
The Brightwater project and its mitigation agreements moved forward only after an extensive siting and permitting process involving numerous stakeholders, independent consultants, and legal counsel. The project has been subjected to extensive oversight since its earliest planning began in the late 1990s.