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Washington Supreme Court OKs lesser version of state-wide carbon cap.

January 27, 2020

On January 16, 2020 the Washington state Supreme Court reinstated a severely limited version of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to cap carbon pollution, a decision Inslee described as a “clarion call” that lawmakers must act on climate change according to an Associated Press report in the Olympia HeraldNet.

But in its 5-4 ruling, the court said the state’s Department of Ecology exceeded its authority when it applied its Clean Air Rule of 2016 to companies that sell or distribute petroleum or natural gas because they don’t make their own emissions — other people burn the fuel they provide. The state agency only has the authority to regulate “actual emitters” such as refineries and power plants, the court said. That means the court’s decision left the state with a much-diminished rule.

“This ruling will significantly affect our ability to reduce emissions,” Gov. Inslee told reporters at a news conference. “This decision has made it even more abundantly clear that we need to take action in the Legislature. The reason is it has disabled one tool that has been used in our toolbox.”

“The issue is not whether man-made climate change is real — it is,” Justice Debra Stephens wrote for the majority. “Instead, this case asks whether the Washington Clean Air Act grants the Department of Ecology the broad authority to establish and enforce greenhouse gas emission standards for businesses and utilities that do not directly emit greenhouse gases, but whose products ultimately do.” Ecology has no such authority, Stephens wrote.

Inslee has long touted environmental issues. He said his office is reviewing the opinion and considering next steps. For now, an emissions cap is on hold. Another round of rule-making would be required before the agency could impose a cap on stationary emitters. One option could be asking lawmakers to expand Ecology’s authority so it can regulate those “indirect emitters.”

The chairman of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle said, “This is addressable, fixable and solvable. Nobody is going to back off the fixed emitters.”

What this means to you
In a 5-4 ruling the Washington state Supreme Court reinstated a severely limited version of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to cap carbon pollution. The court said Department of Ecology exceeded its authority when it applied its Clean Air Rule to companies that sell or distribute petroleum or natural gas because they don’t make their own emissions — other people burn the fuel they provide. The court ruled the state agency only has the authority to regulate “actual emitters” such as refineries and power plants.

MIRATECH can help
Contact MIRATECH for stationary engine emission control in Washington.