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Thursday, September 21, 2023
Sept. 21, 2023

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State to write new carbon cap rule


SEATTLE — The state Department of Ecology on Monday proposed capping greenhouse gases from the state’s 35 largest emitters, rolling out a new rule-making process months after Gov. Jay Inslee failed to get legislation passed on his ambitious cap-and-trade plan.

The agency began writing a rule to limit — and reduce over time — the amount of heat-trapping gases from the state’s largest industrial facilities, including power plants, refineries and landfills.

“The governor asked us to take action because we have too much at stake,” Ecology Director Maia Bellon said in a call with reporters. She cited drought and devastating wildfires as “sobering examples” of what will happen if the state fails to act.

Ecology officials said the rule would apply to facilities emitting 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, which would capture about 60 percent of the state’s overall carbon emissions. Those that don’t comply could face penalties like those used to enforce other regulations.

After state lawmakers failed to act on Inslee’s plan to charge emissions from oil refineries, power plants and fuel suppliers, the governor said he would use his executive authority to develop a regulatory cap under the state’s Clean Air Act. In July, he directed Ecology to come up with a binding cap.

Unlike legislation Inslee sought earlier this year, this proposal won’t charge emitters for carbon pollution. Inslee had pitched his plan as a way to raise more than $1 billion a year for schools and other programs. His proposal was strongly opposed in the Republican-controlled Senate; it also never came up for a floor vote in the Democrat-controlled House.

“The governor is essentially doubling down on a war on manufacturing in Washington state,” said State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who added that it would create an unfair playing field between companies in Washington and those overseas or in other states that would have not to face such regulations.

“He’s creating a perverse incentive to move manufacturing out of state,” he said Monday, referring to the governor.

KC Golden, a senior policy adviser with Climate Solutions, applauded Inslee for putting the force of law behind a commitment to address climate change.

“We’re putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” he added. “It’s a very important step forward.”

Many of the details will be worked out as the agency gets input from the public in coming months. A formal draft rule is expected by December and a final rule should be completed by June, Bellon said.

Ecology’s proposal would apply to fewer facilities — just 35 compared with about 130 facilities that would have been affected by Inslee’s initial cap-and-trade proposal.

The facilities affected by the Ecology Department’s proposal include Nucor Steel in Seattle, the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill in Longview, Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale, McCain Foods in Othello, Frederickson Power in Tacoma, Boise Paper in Wallula, and several Puget Sound Energy plants.