Cedar Grove Composting as seen from north Everett, looking toward Marysville, on May 2, 2012. (Mark Mulligan / Herald file)

Cedar Grove Composting as seen from north Everett, looking toward Marysville, on May 2, 2012. (Mark Mulligan / Herald file)

Cedar Grove again asks Legislature to limit odor lawsuits

Bills in the House and Senate could mean residents bothered by odor won’t be able to sue.

OLYMPIA — A bill to shield composting operations from lawsuits is getting another look from state lawmakers.

Cedar Grove, a composting firm with a history of odor-related disputes in Snohomish County, is behind the effort to amend state law to treat composting as an agricultural activity entitled to protection from nuisance suits.

House Bill 1167 received its first hearing Wednesday in the House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee. Virtually identical legislation passed out of this committee in 2017 and 2018 but did not advance further.

Existing state law says agricultural activities that take place on farmland are presumed to be reasonable and not a nuisance if they do not have “a substantial adverse effect” on health and safety. And it says those activities must be “consistent with good agricultural practices” and established before “any surrounding non-agricultural activity.”

The House bill would expand the list of agricultural activities covered by the law to include composting. It also requires a composting facility to comply with city and county regulations.

The intent is to prevent frivolous lawsuits but not bar residents or regulatory agencies from “lodging legitimate complaints,” Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland, the prime sponsor, told members of the committee.

“This does not give composters carte blanche to operate without oversight,” she said. “We absolutely will not take away anyone’s right to bring suit.”

Jay Blazey, general counsel for Cedar Grove Composting, told the committee the bill would “protect our industry” against the potential negative impact of costly nuisance suits.

Wednesday’s hearing comes weeks after the company settled two class-action lawsuits stemming from odor complaints about its operations at 3620 36th Place on Everett’s Smith Island and in Maple Valley in King County.

In the former case, the company agreed to pay more than $785,000 to resolve claims by residents of the city and in Marysville. Cedar Grove also agreed to spend $1.45 million to reduce the potential for malodorous emissions. In the latter case, the company agreed to pay $1.4 million to settle claims and make $3.4 million in improvements to that site.

Blazey told lawmakers the company is investing in state-of-the-art odor control technology at both plants.

“Everything we do is all about mitigating odors,” he said.

Several residents of Maple Valley testified against the bill. Odors continue to be a problem and the proposed legislation would erase a potential avenue of redress, they said.

“We are at a disadvantage when we make our complaints,” said Janet Dobrowolski who lives in the Maple Hills neighborhood, a couple of miles north of the Maple Valley plant. “The only protection we have now is to face them with a lawsuit.”

Al Aldrich, a lobbyist for the city of Marysville and the Tulalip Tribes, said his clients strongly support composting but oppose the bill.

Odor issues associated with the Everett plant have persisted for more than a decade, he said. Changing the law would protect the facilities from future actions along the lines of the cases that the company settled recently, he said.

“Put it down,” he said.

Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, has introduced Senate Bill 5476 as a companion to the House bill. It has eight co-sponsors, including Democratic Sens. Marko Liias of Lynnwood and Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens.

No hearing had been scheduled as of late Wednesday.

This marks the third straight year Cedar Grove has worked to get this protection into law.

In 2017, the Senate passed Senate Bill 5431 on a 43-0 vote, with all seven senators in the Snohomish County delegation supporting it. It also passed in the House agriculture committee but never reached the floor for a vote.

In 2018, that House committee passed its own version of the legislation. It failed to come up for a vote in the chamber.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

911 received multiple calls reporting a fire at Marie Anne Terrace apartments early Monday morning, Feb. 6, 2023 in Everett, Washington. There were no injuries or fatalities. (Everett Fire Department)
Fire damages Everett apartments, displaces 10

The fire at the Marie Anne Terrace apartments Monday night displaced four families and caused extensive property damage.

A rack with cards bettors can use to choose their own numbers to purchase lottery ticket on a counter at a market. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Been to Auburn lately? That’s where $754M Powerball ticket was sold

This is only the second time a Powerball jackpot has been won in Washington.

Granite Falls
Man shot near Granite Falls; assailants at large

Two suspects fled after shooting a 33-year-old man in a motorhome Tuesday morning, according to police.

Photo by David Welton
A federal grant will help pay for the cost of adding a charging station to the Clinton ferry terminal.
Federal money to help electrify Clinton ferry dock

The Federal Transit Administration awarded state ferries a $4.9 million grant to help electrify the Mukilteo-Clinton route.

Community Transit is leasing a 60-foot articulated BYD battery electric bus this year as an early step in the zero emission planning process. (Community Transit)
Community Transit testing 60-foot electric bus

The agency leased the BYD K11M for $132,000 this year as the first step in its zero-emission planning process.

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Amid patient woes, CHC of Snohomish County staffers push for a union

Doctors and nurse practitioners are worried about providers being shut out from clinical decisions, which hurts patient care.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Public school enrollment still down, even as rural districts grow

Smaller districts in Snohomish County seem to be recovering more quickly — and gaining students — than their urban counterparts.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Democratic Latinos form a caucus, hospital staffing bill clears a hurdle

It’s Day 31. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

Two guests stop to take in a large-scale painting by artist Iryna Kalyuzhna during a public event highlighting the For Ukraine: Art of Freedom exhibit at the Schack Art Center on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ukrainian art in Everett showcases grief, hope in war-torn nation

“For Ukraine: Art of Freedom” at the Schack Center aims to remind Americans of the war and raise money for maternity hospitals.

Most Read