Carbon-emissions rule delayed; more study required in response to industry concerns

The Department of Ecology announced that it has withdrawn its proposed carbon cap rule and will updating it in response to public input. From the press release:

The Washington Department of Ecology plans to update the draft Clean Air Rule it proposed in January after engaging with stakeholders and gathering feedback.

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

…Ecology has withdrawn the proposed rule to make updates and will release a new proposed rule and supporting documents for public review in the spring. In the meantime, Ecology will continue to meet with stakeholders and gather input.

The Association of Washington Business comments that business has actively engaged with the department during the initial stages of the process and will continue to make sure industry voices are heard.

Part of that work includes telling the stories of how a carbon cap – and the resulting cost increases for electricity, natural gas and fuel – would affect small businesses and consumers.

The Seattle Times reports on the delay, noting AWB concerns.

Brandon Houskeeper, a lobbyist with the Association of Washington Business — which has generally opposed Inslee’s climate initiatives — said the group had warned the governor’s office the regulation was moving too fast.

 “We cautioned them that the timeline they were on would cause them to make mistakes, and I think that their withdrawal of the rule today was their acknowledgment that there are problems with it,” he said.

KUOW reports,

“We’ve gotten some concerns from our industry folks,” said Sarah Rees, special assistant for climate policy at Ecology. She said Ecology would be reexamining the crediting and offset system by which companies that exceed the overall cap can mitigate their excessive emissions. “There’s also folks facing competition internationally from China who are worried about how those costs will affect their businesses.”

The KUOW report also notes support from groups supporting increased regulation.

The head of a group advocating for measures to combat climate change applauded the decision.

“We think this is a great opportunity to make the Clean Air Rule stronger, and we support Governor Inslee and the Dept. of Ecology’s thoughtful approach to this important challenge,” said Vlad Gutman, Washington state director for Climate Solutions, in a written statement.

Phuong Le with the Associated Press writes

The rule’s basic concepts would remain the same, including a cap on carbon emissions that would be reduced over time, said Sarah Rees, the Department of Ecology’s special assistant on climate change policy. But the agency heard from numerous groups and businesses and felt it needed more time to make changes in response to public input, she said.

“It would give us more time to finish, more time to continue working with stakeholders,” Rees said. “We’re still on a fast track. We’re still moving forward with an eye to finalize by summer 2016.”

In July, we noted the governor’s intent to adopt stiffer enforcement of current law through the regulatory process. In September, we commented on the beginning of that process. The department’s decision to pause and reconsider in response to input received by affected groups makes sense. And it’s consistent with the concerns we presented in our research report

Many state-level regulations reflect Washingtonians’ commitment to protecting human health and the natural environment. However, the costs of regulatory compliance have a direct impact on investment and job creation.


In terms of regulatory content, Washington regulations routinely exceed the minimums required by federal law…While regulations ultimately reflect Washingtonians’ policy preferences, they should be regularly reviewed to see if, for example, the benefits justify the added costs of compliance.  

We don’t know yet what shape the reconsidered regulatory proposals will take, but ideally they will reflect a clear appreciation of costs and benefits.