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Inslee Administration Begins Writing Rule To Cap Greenhouse Gas Pollution

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anacortes_Refinery_32017.JPG#/media/File:Anacortes_Refinery_32017.JPG
Walter Siegmund
/
Wikimedia Commons
Shell Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee has officially begun a rulemaking to cap greenhouse gas pollution from large industrial sources. Inslee is flexing his executive powers to bypass the state legislature, which has repeatedly chosen not to put a price on carbon.

Washington's Department of Ecology will lead this action to fight climate change. On Monday, it kicked off a year-long process to put a cap on global warming pollution from the state's largest factories, power plants, oil refineries, landfills and metal and glass smelters.

Ecology Director Maia Bellon said the emission limit will annually ratchet down in a process similar to cap-and-trade.

"This does not require payment,” Bellon said. “This requires reduction gradually over time."

Bellon said an energy-intensive manufacturer could take steps to become more efficient or buy pollution credits from an "overachiever" somewhere else. A leading Republican in the Washington Legislature called the state-level proposal punitive to business and a jobs killer.

"They are basically doubling down on their assault on manufacturing jobs in Washington," state Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee chair Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said in an interview with public radio Monday.

Ericksen questioned whether the Inslee administration has the executive authority to pursue a carbon emissions cap. Bellon asserted that her agency does have the necessary powers.

"We have the authority now to reduce air pollution in Washington state. Greenhouse gas emissions are an air pollutant," Bellon argued. "Therefore we are using our existing authority because we cannot continue to sit back and not regulate greenhouse gas emissions."

Bellon said her agency hopes to issue a draft rule detailing how the carbon cap would work around December, after receiving input from industry, environmental groups, tribes and the general public. After further refinement, the final scheme could be released around June.

During that process, the state will study potential costs of compliance. Ecology Department officials said Monday they could not estimate economic impacts at this early juncture. On the same media conference call, Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman said reducing climate warming emissions would undoubtedly benefit people's health.

A range of environmental and climate action-oriented groups applauded the state's carbon cap push as a good first step Monday. On the other side, the Association of Washington Business declared it would bring concerns to the table. "We still think there are better approaches," said AWB government affairs director Brandon Housekeeper.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.