The Lens reports on state’s reissued carbon cap rule; California Gov. Brown pushes extended cap-and-trade program

In The Lens, Matt Rosenberg reports on reactions to the state’s reissued carbon cap rule. (We wrote about it here.) As you might expect, the regulation has generated controversy. We suggest reading Rosenberg’s story in its entirety.

A revised Washington state carbon cap rule will smack consumers hard, offers few real compliance pathways and could export jobs and carbon out-of-state, say targeted emitters and a Senate Republican lawmaker. However, a key Washington State House Democrat says that while the proposed rule is far from perfect, it’s justified, and could prod passage of a better replacement by state legislators as soon as the 2017 session.

The Department of Ecology says the regulation is needed because “carbon pollution has reached rampant levels.” Rosenberg, though, writes,

Yet according to Ecology’s own reports, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases have been dropping annually in Washington, at least through the most recent year for which data are available. Emissions were nearing the state’s 2020 goal without a new regulatory mandate.

Major industries worry about the regulation’s effect. Rosenberg interviews several industry leaders, among them:

Patrick Jablonski, environmental manager for Nucor Steel’s Seattle facility, said in a statement the company is still reviewing the new version of the draft rule, but “..we remain concerned that any rulemaking that lacks clarity and brings uncertainty to our business would put us at a significant disadvantage to our global competitors by driving up energy costs. Affordable energy is vital to our ability to compete.”

…Chris McCabe, Executive Director of the Northwest Pulp and Paper Association, said while the rule was under revision, “we shared ideas” with Ecology in several meetings “but none of our compliance pathways were included.”

The public comment period has begun.

Public comment on the state carbon cap rule extends to July 22. There will be public hearings this week on July 12 in Spokane at the Davenport Grand Hotel, 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., and July 14 in Olympia, at the The Red Lion Hotel, 2300 Evergreen Park Dr. SW. Both start at 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, business is still attempting to sort out the possible impacts.

The Association of Washington Business (AWB) is conducting a fiscal analysis of the rule’s effects on industry.

As we wrote in our foundation 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…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. 

Ideally, the proposed rule will be subject to such a review before it is adopted.

Meanwhile, in California, Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking to extend that state’s cap-and-trade program

The centerpiece of the push is a cap-and-trade program that aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels by forcing manufacturers and other companies to meet tougher emissions limits or pay up to exceed them. The program has been one of the most-watched efforts in the world aimed at the climate-changing fuels.

The four-year-old program, however, is only authorized to operate until 2020 and faces a litany of challenges, including a lawsuit questioning its legality, poor sales of credits, and lukewarm support among Democratic legislators to extend it.

The AP reports the California Air Resources Board will release a plan today, with a vote expected next year.