As Dan noted earlier, the Seattle Times ran a front-page editorial today headlined "Seattle refuses to use salt; Roads snow-packed by design." The piece by Times consumer-affairs reporter Susan Kelleher—replete with shocked italics and scare quotes ("it turns out 'plowed streets' in Seattle actually means 'snow-packed,' as in there's snow and ice left on major arterials by design" and leading language (the city doesn't just have policy of not salting roads; it "refuses"; drivers are "pretty much on their own"—argues, essentially, that Seattle's decision to not salt roads is absurd and out of step with what all other cities "typically" do. The story briefly mentions that Seattle leaders are "environmentally sensitive," but immediately dismisses their concerns with a barrage of pro-salting quotes from a consultant. The story has been embraced by the right-wing blogosphere, in posts with headlines like "Enviro Nuts in Seattle Refuse to Salt Roads!" and "Compromising Public Safety—by Design!"

Not only is this reprehensible, inaccurate hysteria-mongering (OMG! The city wants to keep YOU from driving more than 30 mph because of some stupid fish!); not only does it, as Dan notes, ignore the Times' own reporting on the health of Puget Sound; it's also a pathetic excuse for an argument. If the Seattle Times wants to make the case that we should dump tons of salt and chemicals into Puget Sound for the convenience of drivers, fine, but they should at least come by that argument honestly—by explaining what Seattle leaders' environmental concerns actually are, instead of summarizing them dismissively in a single quote by a transportation-department bureaucrat.

Here's what the Seattle Times won't tell you about salting roads.

Road salt can kill trees and fish.

It also changes water chemistry, causing certain minerals to leach out of soils and increasing water acidity.

It causes chemical imbalances in plants, inhibiting root growth and disrupting the uptake of nutrients. This makes it harder for plants to serve as buffers that slow the runoff of other contaminants into the watershed, and can negatively impact animals that feed on plants.

The salts also affect mammals and birds, poisoning some birds outright and causing behavioral changes in other animals.

Salts accelerate the corrosion of streets, bridges, sidewalks, and vehicles.

Canada has declared road salt toxic. And at least 15 states have adopted a low-salt method of de-icing roads because of environmental concerns.

Contrary to what the Seattle Times would have you believe, not salting roads isn't some wacky idea dreamed up by a bunch of kooky radical environmentalists. It's actually a mainstream policy based on common sense and sound environmental judgment—a policy that's been embraced by many other cities in the U.S., Europe, and Canada. Ultimately, though, the Times' front-page editorial was a statement of belief: The belief that getting everywhere as quickly as possible, in a car, is a paramount human right. If you believe that, then it follows that you'll also believe Seattle leaders are obligated to uphold that right, the health of Puget Sound and its animals, plants, and aquatic life be damned.