science environment

Big Carbon Polluters Face New Emissions Rule In Washington

By Ashley Ahearn (KUOW/EarthFix)
Seattle Jan. 6, 2016 8:03 p.m.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Washington Governor's Office

New carbon pollution rules in Washington will pack the biggest wallop for cement makers, oil refiners and paper mills.

These are among the industrial manufacturers that will be required to lower their greenhouse gas emissions under the draft rules released Wednesday by Washington. Gov. Jay Inslee's administration.

The State Department of Ecology's draft rules target 60 percent of Washington's greenhouse gas emissions by requiring big emitters to ratchet down emissions over the coming years, or offset their emissions by buying credits on existing carbon markets or investing in other renewable energy projects or carbon reduction schemes.

Roughly 40 companies, which emit more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, could be regulated. The list is not yet finalized but tentatively includes Boeing, Puget Sound Energy, the five Washington refineries, several pulp and paper mills, cement companies and steel manufacturers as well as some agribusinesses.

Each company will be required to reduce or offset their CO2 emissions by 5,000 metric tons over the next three years, and downwards from there until they meet a cap of 70,000 metric tons total emissions per year.

In an earlier interview, a manager overseeing the rule-making process said it  it would be left to industrial manufacturers to determine how best to curb their carbon pollution.

"This rule says you've got to get this many tons of emissions reductions but you can pretty much do that however you want,"  said Stu Clark, program manager for the carbon rule at the Washington state Department of Ecology.

Third parties will be enlisted to verify those strategies. Companies that can't meet the carbon-reduction standards by changing their operations will be allowed to choose alternatives to offset emissions that exceed what's allowed under the new rules, Clark said.

"It could be electrifying vehicles. It could be capturing dairy methane waste and turning it into power. It could be energy efficiency programs or renewable energy," Clark said.

Critics say Inslee is unfairly targeting the manufacturing and industrial sectors.

"It hurts families and he's overstepping I'd say, and a bit tone deaf to the working families of Washington who are dependent on these manufacturing jobs," Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said in an interview before the draft rules were made public Wednesday.  

Washington refineries and other petroleum-related industries are still reviewing the rules and have not ruled out legal action, said Frank Holmes, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association.

"There are definitely some legal questions along with technical and economic questions. Each facility is unique and there's already been significant energy efficiency investments made by all the facilities," Holmes said.  

Public comment can be submitted  on the proposed rule through April 8, 2016. Four public meetings will be held this spring.