Washington state regulators are setting aside the rules they've been working on to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted into the air.

The Department of Ecology was instructed by Gov. Jay Inslee to draw up the rules. Originally they targeted about 40 companies including oil refineries, utilities, pulp and paper mills, and steel and concrete manufacturers.

Ecology held meetings with representatives of some of those companies before Friday's announcement that it was suspending its rule-making process.

"We've gotten some concerns from our industry folks," said Sarah Rees,  special assistant for climate policy at Ecology. She said Ecology would be reexamining the crediting and offset system by which companies that exceed the overall cap can mitigate their excessive emissions. "There's also folks facing competition internationally from China who are worried about how those costs will affect their businesses."

The Western States Petroleum Association met with Ecology and also submitted a letter to the state which said that "removal of all emissions from local businesses and industry would have no actual effect on the broad global issue intended to be addressed."

The trade association called on Ecology to consider the need for "equitable" treatment of large and small greenhouse gas emitters and to weigh the potentially adverse impact on Washington businesses as they compete against companies in states without such stringent emissions controls.


The head of a group advocating for measures to combat climate change applauded the decision.

“We think this is a great opportunity to make the Clean Air Rule stronger, and we support Governor Inslee and the Dept. of Ecology’s thoughtful approach to this important challenge,” said Vlad Gutman, Washington state director for Climate Solutions, in a written statement.

Rees specified that the rule-making has not halted altogether. She said the draft rule is being reworked to reflect industry officials' concerns.

"It's important that we continue to make progress and it's also important that we listen to folks and respond accordingly," Rees said.  

The meetings that were scheduled in March to allow the public to weigh in on the rule have been canceled. State officials plan to release a new proposal sometime this spring, which could be finalized a few months later.