Washington yanks cap-and-trade proposal

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, February 29, 2016

The state of Washington withdrew a plan today that would have set the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide emissions from large facilities.

In a news release, the Washington Department of Ecology said it would update the plan based on feedback. The agency said it would issue a new proposed rule in the spring.

“We appreciate all the helpful and constructive feedback we have received from stakeholders,” Sarah Rees, Ecology’s special assistant on climate change policy, said in a statement. “We’re listening and being responsive to the ideas on how to best move the rule forward.”

The program, which the state likes calling “cap-and-reduce,” had called for restricting carbon dioxide emissions from big facilities that release 100,000 or more metric tons of the greenhouse gas a year and a 5 percent reduction every three years. The 100,000-ton threshold for compliance would decline over time, folding more facilities into the program (Greenwire, Jan. 7).

Under the state’s proposal, entities would have been able to meet the carbon caps by reducing emissions, obtaining emissions credits from other polluters and funding carbon reduction projects.

The program would have covered several industries within the state, including natural gas distribution, petroleum fuel production, power plants and waste facilities.

Business associations had expressed concerns about the plan to progressively lower the compliance limit.

The state did not give any specifics today about why it pulled the proposal but said it would update several key areas, including compliance options and credit system transparency.

The new plan will also likely give consideration to Washington manufacturers whose products are sensitive to global pricing, the Ecology Department said.

The state had already proposed to delay compliance for imported fuels and energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries because of stakeholder concerns.

“We’ll continue the engagement process with the public and stakeholders while we make the updates,” Rees said. “We’re committed to keeping the conversation going; it’s a priority for us.”

Environmentalists are separately pushing a ballot measure to establish a carbon tax in the state.