Emissions cap rules may be two years away; state still wants to exceed federal standards

The Everett Herald reports today that the Gov. Inslee’s proposed emissions cap may take longer than he anticipated. 

[Inslee] pledged the process would be open with plenty of opportunity for interested parties to weigh in — and he expected to be finished in about a year.

But the man leading the effort says it could take twice as long because of the complexity and controversy enveloping the issue.

The department of ecology’s air quality control manager, Stu Clark, says it usually takes 18-24 months to develop a “complex rule like this.” The article goes on to detail the steps involved. It’s worth reading just to remind yourself of the complexity of environmental regulation.

Also noted in the story:

Meanwhile Monday, President Barack Obama announced new federal rules to limit emissions from the nation’s power plants. Inslee praised the president and issued a statement saying the policy complements his approach in the state to fighting climate change.

“Here in Washington we’ll go further,” Inslee said. “We will cap carbon pollution using our state’s own Clean Air Act, we will continue to invest in clean technologies and we will promote a smarter grid and cleaner transportation alternatives.”

As we wrote last fall,

Washington regulations routinely exceed the minimums required by federal law.

The trend continues. The Seattle Times reports the federal rule will add momentum to the state’s efforts. The article also flags an unresolved issue.

As coal power is phased out, one big question is what will replace it.

As coal plants have shut down in recent years, natural-gas power plants have increased their generation. Natural gas, also a fossil fuel, produces lesser amounts of carbon dioxide than coal but still generates significant emissions.

The federal rules released Monday place a bigger emphasis on replacing coal-fired power plants with renewables or with beefed-up conservation.

And in that regard, it’s worth reading this short article with good links, which identifies transitional challenges yet to be resolved. 

Sometimes, it’s a good thing that rule-making takes a while. The complexity requires deliberation. From the Herald article,

“Without having any details, how do you go from scratch to a rule in a year?” asked Brandon Housekeeper, director of governmental affairs on environmental issues for the Association of Washington Business. “One year just seems aggressive on his part.”

Housekeeper also stated his preference for a collaborative approach to developing a rule. That makes a lot of sense. The stakes are high.