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Bill would prohibit state agency from setting carbon cap

SEATTLE — A new bill takes aim at Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon policies by prohibiting state regulators from adopting rules that limit greenhouse gas emissions without legislative direction.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, targets the Democratic governor’s ability to take executive action on the issue.

After failing to get legislation passed on his cap-and-trade plan last year, Inslee directed the Department of Ecology to limit carbon pollution using its existing authority under state law.

This month, Ecology proposed a draft rule requiring Washington’s largest industrial emitters to reduce carbon emissions by 5 percent every three years. The proposed Clean Air Rule would initially apply to about two dozen manufacturing plants, refineries, power plants, natural gas distributors and others that release at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year. Many more facilities would be covered by the rule as that threshold is lowered over time.

At a bill hearing Tuesday, Ericksen said lawmakers should be making those decisions and Ecology’s proposed rule should be put on hold. Ericksen heads the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment & Telecommunications, where Senate Bill 6173 was heard.

Ericksen, a vocal critic of Inslee’s carbon policies, said the proposed carbon rule will encourage companies to curtail operations or not build in Washington state. The rule, combined with potential ballot initiatives addressing greenhouse gas emissions, sends a bad message to job creators and would hurt working families, Ericksen said.

Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith declined to comment on the proposal.

Ecology officials say the rule is needed to protect human health and the environment from climate change.

Vlad Gutman, the Washington State director of Climate Solutions, testified against the bill, saying the state has an opportunity to lead on this issue. He said Ecology’s rule would create jobs, slow climate change and improve public health.

Brandon Houskeeper with Association of Washington Business, which supports the bill, told senators there are already many laws and rules that encourage energy efficiency, clean energy and other carbon reductions.

Meanwhile, several proposals are being floated to tackle climate change in Washington.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, a Democrat from Lake Stevens, is sponsoring a bill that charges a fossil fuel carbon pollution tax of $8 per metric ton of carbon dioxide.

Carbon Washington has proposed a $25 tax on every metric ton of carbon dioxide; the group has turned in more than 350,000 signatures in an effort to qualify Initiative 732.

Another group, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, is planning a statewide ballot initiative. It likely would impose new fees on carbon pollution and direct the money for clean energy and other projects.

In related news, Mining, water, carbon top Minnesota’s environmental agenda.

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