Judge overturns Washington’s carbon-capping rule

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2017

A state judge has ruled against large portions of Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon-capping regulation, but the full impact of the ruling is still to be determined.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled Friday from the bench against Inslee’s Clean Air Rule, which went into effect in January. The rule is intended to reduce the state’s carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the end of the decade and 25 percent below that in 2035.

Trade groups from a wide variety of industries had sued over the rule after the state Department of Ecology approved it in September 2016. Opponents argued that the state lacked the authority to impose carbon caps without legislative approval.

The program subjects the state’s 24 largest emitters to individual caps that decline by 1.7 percent annually. Inslee had directed the Department of Ecology to develop the rule after failing to get legislative approval for a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system; he said Friday that he intends to try again for a carbon tax next month (Greenwire, Dec. 15).

Dixon ruled that the state lacks authority to mandate reductions from indirect emitters — suppliers of petroleum and natural gas, which account for about two-thirds of Washington’s emissions. He asked parties to submit briefs on how the ruling should be implemented. The program could still remain in effect for direct emitters, which include stationary sources and direct petroleum emissions.

“Washington’s particularly vulnerable to climate change, and so we’re disappointed in the decision,” said Camille St. Onge, a spokeswoman for the Department of Ecology. “Our environment and our infrastructure are really dependent on us reducing greenhouse gases. This ruling threatens our good work.”

The Association of Washington Business, which led the plaintiffs, said it was pleased with the decision.

“We did not believe this rule was the right way to accomplish the goal of reducing emissions,” the group’s president, Kris Johnson, said in a statement.

“It was unnecessary and, if the rule was allowed to stand, would have made it more expensive to heat homes, drive to work and grow a business in the state of Washington because it would have put Washington manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to national and international companies,” Johnson added. “We can and will do more to reduce our state’s carbon emissions in a way that keeps businesses in Washington’s clean economy instead of driving them to other states and nations with less stringent standards.”