science environment

Washington State's Multiple Choice Test On Capping Carbon Pollution

By Ashley Ahearn (KUOW/EarthFix)
July 22, 2016 10 p.m.

Friday is the public's last chance to comment on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's plan to limit carbon pollution from the state's biggest emitters. But with a carbon tax on the November ballot, it won't be voters' last word on the matter.


The Department of Ecology drew up the proposed rules putting a cap on carbon emissions. By the close of the comment period Friday for this latest draft, the state had received roughly 3,000 comments. Department officials say they hope to have the rule finalized by mid-September.


Close to 70 Washington companies will be asked to cut carbon emissions by an average of 1.7 percent each year. The bigger emitters, like oil refiners and cement makers, will have to start making cuts or offsetting their emissions as early as next year. Then over the coming years, the smaller emitters will also have to start reducing to meet the cap.

This is the second draft of the rule. The first one was met with strong opposition from businesses. The revised rule includes some changes to support business growth and protect trade-vulnerable companies.

Climate activists say the rule doesn’t go far enough and reductions need to be steeper to stay within safe global carbon levels. Some of those activists are supporting a carbon tax proposal on Washington's November ballot.

I-732 sets up a $25 tax on every metric ton of carbon emitted through the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline, natural gas and coal. It also cuts the state sales tax by one point. It virtually eliminates business taxes on manufacturers and provides a rebate for working families.

The vote on the initiative is shaping up to be a fight. A coalition of business, agriculture and labor groups announced Thursday it would oppose the initiative. The umbrella group, the No on 732 campaign, issued a statement saying the measure would drive up gas and home-energy costs and keep companies from expanding or locating in Washington.

The measure's backers say on their Yes On 732 website that it will make the tax system more fair and promote cleaner energy.