Sunday, May 31, 2020
May 31, 2020

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Bill would prohibit agency from setting a carbon cap


SEATTLE — A new bill aims at Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon policies by prohibiting state regulators from adopting rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions without legislative direction.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, targets the Democratic governor’s power for executive action on the issue.

After legislation on a cap-and-trade plan failed last year, Inslee directed the Department of Ecology to limit carbon pollution using its existing authority.

This month, Ecology proposed a draft rule requiring Washington’s largest industrial emitters to reduce carbon emissions by 5 percent every three years. The Clean Air Rule would initially apply to about two dozen manufacturing plants, refineries, power plants, natural gas distributors and others that release at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year. Many more facilities would be covered as that threshold is lowered over time.

At a hearing Tuesday, Ericksen said lawmakers should make those decisions, and the rule should be put on hold. Ericksen heads the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment & Telecommunications, where Senate Bill 6173 was heard.

Ericksen, a vocal critic of Inslee’s carbon policies, said the proposed carbon rule will encourage companies to curtail operations or not build in Washington. The rule, combined with potential ballot initiatives addressing greenhouse gas emissions, sends a bad message to job creators and would hurt working families, Ericksen said.

Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith declined to comment on the proposal.

Ecology officials say the rule is needed to protect human health and the environment from climate change.

Vlad Gutman, state director of Climate Solutions, a regional nonprofit, testified against the bill, saying the state can lead on this issue and that the rule would create jobs, slow climate change and improve public health.

Brandon Houskeeper of Association of Washington Business, which supports the bill, testified many laws and rules already encourage energy efficiency, clean energy and carbon reductions.

Meanwhile, several proposals are being floated to tackle climate change.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, is sponsoring a bill to charge a fossil fuel carbon pollution tax of $8 per metric ton of carbon dioxide.

Carbon Washington proposes a $25 tax on every metric ton of carbon dioxide; the group has turned in more than 350,000 signatures supporting Initiative 732.

And the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is planning a statewide ballot initiative, likely to impose fees on carbon pollution and fund clean energy.