Gov. Jay Inslee today directed the state Department of Ecology to step up enforcement of existing state pollution laws and develop a regulatory cap on carbon emissions. Inslee said Washingtonians have too much at stake to wait any longer for legislative action.
“Carbon pollution and the climate change it causes pose a very real and existential threat to our state,” Inslee said. “Farmers in the Yakima Valley know this. Shellfish growers on the coast know this. Firefighters battling Eastern Washington blazes know this. And children suffering from asthma know this all too well and are right to question why Washington hasn’t acted to protect them.”
The regulatory cap on carbon emissions would force a significant reduction in air pollution and will be the centerpiece of Inslee’s strategy to make sure the state meets its statutory emission limits set by the Legislature in 2008.
The governor asked Ecology Director Maia Bellon to develop substantive emission reductions using existing authority. The process will be open and transparent and all stakeholders will have ample opportunity to express their ideas, options and concerns as the rule development process unfolds.
That process is expected to take about a year.
Unlike the legislation that Inslee proposed to the 2015 Legislature, the regulatory cap will not charge emitters for carbon pollution and therefore would not raise revenue for state operations. The other key difference is the current proposal wouldn’t create a centralized market for trading of emissions credits, though emitters may be able trade amongst themselves.
“This is not the comprehensive approach we could have had with legislative action,” Inslee said. “But Senate Republicans and the oil industry have made it clear that they will not accede to any meaningful action on carbon pollution so I will use my authority under the state Clean Air Act to take these meaningful first steps.”
This rule-making process doesn’t preclude future legislative action to produce a more comprehensive program.
In recent weeks Inslee has met with a number of Washington citizens and organizations to discuss how best to fight climate change. The conversations surrounded the recently enacted transportation investment package that included the so-called poison pill. That proviso would have moved about $2 billion in funding from multi-modal projects to an unappropriated account if the governor moved ahead with a clean fuel standard.
The governor said today he will not pursue the clean fuel standard.
Moving forward on a regulatory limit on pollution will ensure that Washington addresses carbon pollution and maintains a robust investment in transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, ferries and other important transportation choices.
"In talking about the terrible choice the Senate imposed on the people of Washington – clean air or buses and safe sidewalks – I heard broad agreement that we need both clean transportation and clean air,” Inslee said. “I appreciate the commitment I heard from many to work with me to ensure our state meets its statutory carbon reduction limits.”