Washington State Plowing Ahead With Greenhouse Gas Limits

Nov 18, 2015

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee is moving ahead with a plan to limit greenhouse gas pollution from the state's largest industrial sources.

State regulators fielded dozens of questions Wednesday about the efficacy, design and compliance costs of the proposal to slow climate change.

"We have heard loud and clear that we need to be sensitive to and understand the unique aspects of energy intense and trade exposed industries,” Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program Manager Stu Clark said during a webinar. “We also heard that emissions reductions and the credits that come from those emissions reductions must be real."

In late summer, Governor Inslee asked the Ecology Department to develop quickly what he called a "cap and reduce program." The carbon pollution limit ratchets down over time.

The affected industries include oil refineries, large power plants, natural gas utilities and landfills.

Ecology Department managers said they are on track to release draft rule language and an economic analysis next month. They anticipate finalizing and adopting the cap and the rules for trading credits in summer 2016. The program would begin in 2017.

Some Republicans in the Washington Legislature question whether the Inslee administration has the executive authority to pursue a carbon emissions cap. The Ecology Department’s director has asserted that her agency does have the necessary powers.

This state-level carbon cap is just one of a passel of proposed climate protection measures proposed by various parties. Others include a Washington citizen's initiative which is nearing qualification to impose a carbon tax. There is also an Obama administration "Clean Power Plan" to reduce emissions nationwide from the electricity generation sector.

Webinar participants from affected industries and environmental groups raised concerns about "double counting credits" under the various regulatory schemes or imposing impossible cumulative carbon dioxide reduction goals.

"We are trying to find a balance," responded Bill Drumheller, a climate and energy specialist at the Washington State Department of Ecology, regarding the challenge of harmonizing the separate initiatives.