Judge Declares Clean Air Rule Invalid
Employer groups challenged Department of Ecology’s authority to implement rule without approval of legislators
OLYMPIA — A Thurston County judge blocked the state Department of Ecology’s Clean Air Rule from moving forward Friday, saying the state lacks the authority to implement it without legislative approval.
The Department of Ecology implemented the rule in 2016 at the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee. A coalition of employer groups led by the Association of Washington Business filed a lawsuit in September 2016 challenging the department’s authority to implement the rule without approval by the Legislature.
Judge James Dixon sided with the employer group Friday afternoon following oral arguments, ruling that the Department of Ecology does not have authority to regulate suppliers of natural gas and petroleum products because they are not an emitting party. The Department of Ecology’s authority is limited to those that directly introduce contaminates into the air, not those that sell the products, Dixon said.
“We are pleased with the judge’s decision,” said AWB President Kris Johnson. “AWB and its members remain committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Washington is a low-carbon leader in the nation and world, and our state’s employers will continue to reduce carbon emissions through innovation and private investment.”
The carbon rule required certain manufacturers, natural gas providers and fuel distributors to comply with emission reduction limits. Covered industries would have been forced to comply by either reducing overall emissions or purchasing credits to cover emissions.
“We did not believe this rule was the right way to accomplish the goal of reducing emissions,” Johnson said. “It was unnecessary and, if the rule was allowed to stand, would have made it more expensive to heat homes, drive to work and grow a business in the state of Washington because it would have put Washington manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to national and international companies. We can and will do more to reduce our state’s carbon emissions in a way that keeps businesses in Washington’s clean economy instead of driving them to other states and nations with less stringent standards.”