Business Coalition Goes to Court to Challenge State Clean Air Rule

A business coalition has filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s clean air rule. We discussed the controversial new regulation in our weekly newsletter two weeks ago, saying we expected the issue wasn’t going away.

The Association of Washington Business, in a press release announcing the suit, says,

The AWB lawsuit challenges the department’s authority to implement the rule without approval by the Legislature.

“Washington employers have made tremendous progress reducing carbon emissions over the last two decades, so it’s unfortunate the state is moving forward with this unnecessary regulation,” said AWB President Kris Johnson. “If this rule is allowed to stand, it will put Washington manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to national and international competitors, and it will force natural gas and fuel suppliers to pass on increased costs to families, making it more expensive to heat homes, drive to work and buy groceries.”

Members of the AWB-led coalition include:

Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities

Northwest Food Processors Association

Northwest Pulp and Paper Association

Northwest Industrial Gas Users

Washington Trucking Association

Washington State Farm Bureau

Western States Petroleum Association

In issuing the regulation, the Department of Ecology highlighted the unprecedented nature of its action:

.. Ecology today adopted a first-of-its-kind clean air rule that caps and reduces carbon pollution. 

“Today marks a watershed moment in our country’s history,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “We are taking leadership under our clean air act, adopting a strong and practical plan to reduce greenhouse gases, and doing our fair share to tackle climate change.” 

…Under the new rule, businesses that are responsible for 100,000 metric tons of carbon pollution annually will be required to cap and then gradually reduce their emissions. 

If a business cannot limit its own emissions, it has other options. It could develop a project that reduces carbon pollution in Washington, such as an energy efficiency program. Businesses could also comply by buying carbon credits from others or from other approved carbon markets.

Several natural gas utilities have also challenged the regulation.

Avista Corp., Cascade Natural Gas Corp., NW Natural and Puget Sound Energy jointly challenged the rule Tuesday in federal court in Spokane. They also plan to file a challenge in Thurston County Superior Court. 

The utilities contend that reducing greenhouse gas emissions must be addressed, but on a nationwide level. They are asking the court to invalidate the rule…

In their legal filing, the utilities said the new rule will have the unintended consequence of increasing carbon emissions while penalizing customers for using clean natural gas. 

It will raise net carbon emissions regionally from the electric power sector by discouraging the use of natural gas facilities in Washington in favor of out-of-state coal plants and less efficient out-of-state natural gas plants, they contend. 

The rule will increase home heating costs, greenhouse gas emissions and particulate pollution from less efficient sources of energy, they contend.

“Watershed moments” have consequences. As we said before, this isn’t over.