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Washington's Carbon Rule Gets a Makeover

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  • Mar 7, 2016 1:43 am GMT
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Noah Long, Senior Attorney, San Francisco

Under Washington administrative laws agencies cannot make significant changes in draft regulations without first withdrawing and resubmitting them. This morning’s withdrawal of Washington’s draft carbon rule means the state has an opportunity to make the rule stronger.

Governor Jay Inslee is and has long been a champion of addressing climate change. He fought for action on climate in Congress and he continues to do so as Governor of Washington, despite having to work with leaders in the state Senate who prefer to bury their heads in the ground and ignore the plight of future generations threatened with climate chaos.

Last year, Governor Inslee pushed hard for a legislative package to cut carbon. When the legislature couldn’t agree on a deal, he decided to use the authority granted to him under the state’s existing clean air laws to reduce carbon pollution. The Department of Ecology began working on the rule right away, and released a draft of the rule in January. That release spurred many conversations among stakeholders in preparation for the scheduled hearings and comment deadline.

NRDC, along with a number of Washington and northwestern regional groups, has been actively involved in ensuring Washington’s carbon limits are ambitious and effective. We have identified some important opportunities to improve the draft. These changes still meet the Governor’s goal for cutting carbon and should lower costs, increase the transparency and integrity of the program and fit squarely within the legal authority of the state to cut pollution.

The new draft should establish an economy wide cap which would accordingly limit the ability of each regulated polluter to emit carbon. An economy wide cap is better than the facility-specific approach in the draft rule because it guarantees reductions and maintains an even incentive across all the economy even as individual businesses enter or grow in the state. Under an economy wide cap, reductions are measured at the source and use of ‘offsets,’ reductions from outside the regulated sectors, can and should be limited to well-defined and well documented protocols. It also keeps open the possibility of joining a broader carbon market, which could lower costs of the program and build momentum for further national and international action.

So, today’s procedural step opens the door to improving the rule and deepening Washington’s leadership on climate. We look forward to supporting Governor Inslee and the state agency as it completes an ambitious and effective carbon limit to grow the state’s clean economy.

Photo Credit: Ian Barbour via Flickr

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