May 13, 2024

An Update on My Work to Protect Our Environment, Support Local Jobs, and Combat Toxic Partisanship

Hello Folks –

May is well underway. The warm and sunny weather has officially arrived, and things are as busy as ever in Washington, D.C., and back home in our region. From Appropriations Committee hearings to meetings with folks from across our region, I’ve been keeping busy running pillar to post, making myself available and accountable on behalf of the folks I’m so honored to represent. So, with that, let’s jump into the news!

Representing Puget Sound throughout the Appropriations Process

We are kicking off Appropriations season in Washington, DC. There have been -and will continue to be - many hearings, where witnesses get the chance to share how federal funding impacts them.

In one of those hearings, I had the opportunity to discuss the role of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities in uplifting Native artists in our region, fostering civic bridgebuilding, and improving literacy rates, among other key priorities.

And in another hearing, I was thrilled to welcome several local tribal leaders to Washington, DC, when the Interior Subcommittee heard directly from the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal Chair, the Shoalwater Bay Tribal Chair, and the Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission on issues impacting tribal communities.

These hearings are a direct opportunity for leaders in both our vital government agencies and in Congress to hear directly from folks in our district on what matters most to our neck of the woods. I’d like to take a moment to focus on one Appropriations Committee hearing in particular when I had the opportunity to thank the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its efforts and to speak on behalf of the folks across our region who depend on these investments to maintain their way of life.

Across our region, the work of the EPA doesn’t go unnoticed, supporting critical efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound. Last year, several Tribes in our region petitioned the EPA to regulate 6PPD-q, a toxic chemical that is present in stormwater runoff that has proved fatal to several species of salmon, severely harming one of our region’s most iconic symbols. I am pleased to share that the EPA granted that petition and is working diligently to both regulate the chemical and find better ways of preventing it from getting into our waterways.

That’s a big deal. Not only do we have an obligation to protect the native salmon here in our region, but we have a moral and legal obligation to protect the Tribal treaty rights of the 17 Tribes in the Puget Sound region, which includes their right to harvest fish and shellfish. This new regulation means the federal government will be doing its part to uphold its responsibilities to our local Tribes, ensuring that the water remains healthy for the native fish that their communities and way of life depend on.

Beyond 6PPD-q, the EPA is also committed to supporting Puget Sound through something called the Geographic Program. This program has led to the restoration of habitat and cleaner water in many of the rivers that feed the Sound. That’s good news for the communities that depend on these waterways.

The importance and impact of these efforts by the EPA are vital to our region, ensuring that future generations will be able to continue to enjoy the natural resources and iconic bodies of water that make our region so unique. I’m committed to continuing to support these efforts, so that my kids, their kids, and future generations, can enjoy the spectacular sights, sounds, and species of the Puget Sound region for years to come.

Combating Toxic Polarization

If you’ve watched cable news at all in recent years, you’d get a good sense that there are some real and tangible divides among the American people (let’s not kid ourselves – cable news probably isn’t helping!).

According to a January 2022 NBC News poll, 70% of Americans agreed with the statement, “America is so divided it is now incapable of solving big problems and the problem is getting worse.” That’s a huge concern.

But in our area, we’ve seen inspiring efforts to counter increased division. After a series of horrific attacks – including assault, vandalism, and arson – against faith-based institutions in our region, we saw an interfaith group foster community understanding and build cohesion.

What’s more, following a series of conflicts at a South Sound YMCA, local leaders introduced conflict resolution initiatives and community events to bridge differences. But these efforts have lacked federal support thus far, a gap my bipartisan Building Civic Bridges Act aims to fill. By supporting civic dialogue and addressing conflict, we can foster unity in the face of growing division.

And it’s in the name of fostering unity that, last week, I joined Governors Spencer Cox of Utah and Wes Moore of Maryland for an important conversation at the Library of Congress on finding ways to “Disagree Better.” During my time in Congress, I have led a bipartisan effort to combat the toxic polarization that has plagued our government – and our nation – and worked to encourage cooperation and healthy debate across the partisan divide.

That’s because we’ve seen those efforts work in our region: folks in our community are leading their own efforts to foster dialogue, defuse and address sources of conflict, and bridge differences. I’ll keep working in D.C. through the end of my term to support those efforts and to hopefully see the Building Civic Bridges Act across the finish line.

Investing in Healthier Jobs and Communities

Around Puget Sound, our ports are the backbone of our economy. That backbone includes hubs for the trucking industry. Recently, I was thrilled to announce a new investment from the Transportation Department that will further support small trucking businesses across our region.

Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, The Northwest Seaport Alliance will receive $16 million through the Federal Highway Administration’s Reduction of Trucking Emissions at Port Facilities (RTEPF) Grant Program. This important funding will support both the deployment of more drayage trucks and the development of necessary charging and fueling infrastructure in our region to support a larger truck fleet.

This investment in our region is a step forward in transforming transportation infrastructure throughout the South Sound and greater Puget Sound region. It’s a step towards achieving the goal of a large-scale transition to zero-emission trucking across our state, reducing the greenhouse gas and diesel emissions that disproportionately impact disadvantaged, overburdened communities near our seaports and along the major freight corridors across our region.

Beyond the environmental benefits, this new investment will support local drayage trucking companies, 30% of which are independent owner/operators or very small companies, helping to protect and create good-paying jobs.

This is a great win for our region and I’m proud to have been able to help secure this critical funding alongside many other projects made possible through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Working for You

Thank you to Chairman Klatush and other members of the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation for sharing your priorities. And kudos to Chairman Klatush for his powerful testimony to the Appropriations Committee.

Thank you to Lynn Jabs from the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals for stopping by to discuss the importance of addressing the underutilization of VA loans that our service members are entitled to. I’ll keep working to get the bipartisan VALID ACT across the finish line!

It’s always great to meet with the team over at Pierce Transit. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re working to improve public transportation in our region by making it more accessible and affordable – proud to be a partner in this effort!

OK – that’s it for now, folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Derek Kilmer
Derek Kilmer