High court invalidates parts of clean air rule

High court invalidates parts of Clean Air rule

The Washington State Supreme Court in a Jan. 16 ruling has invalidated parts of the state Department of Ecology’s Clean Air Rule authorized by Governor Jay Inslee via executive order.

The high court found that the state’s Clean Air Act did not give the state agency the authority to enforce emission standards for entities that don’t directly emit carbon, effectively nullifying 85 percent of emissions impacted by the rule.

At the same time, the court found that Ecology “may continue to enforce the rule in its authorized applications to actual emitters.” It has now remanded the case back to Thurston County Superior Court.

The Clean Air Rule mandates that businesses emitting more than 100,000 metrics tons of CO2 annually reduce their emissions by an average of 1.7 percent ever year.

After a lawsuit was filed, the rule was invalidated in 2017 by a Thurston County Superior Court judge on similar grounds, noting the lack of statutory authority. Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were the Northwest Pulp and Paper Association (NWPPA) and the Association of Washington Business (AWB).

During Ecology’s rulemaking process, AWB estimated the rule would eliminate 34,000 jobs and cost $7.3 billion in sales losses by 2035, with small business composing half of that job and sales loss. AWB President Kris Johnson said a statement that “if it was allowed to stand, the rule would have forced natural gas and fuel suppliers to pass on increased costs to families, making it more expensive to heat homes, drive to work and buy groceries, and it would have raised transportation and other costs for all employers, particularly small businesses.”

NWPPA Executive Director Chris McCabe told Lens “we are still digesting it. We’re informing our members about what the court did. We’re going to have to analyze it and talk to our lawyers about possible next step.(We’re) not sure if Ecology’s going to continue to litigate or not.”

In a statement, he added that “we believe the Court ruled correctly in its analysis of the Clean Air Rule, but still have concerns…including that portion of the rule that applies to pulp and paper mills in Washington state.”


TJ Martinell is a native Washingtonian and award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Bellevue, he’s been involved in the news industry since working at his high school newspaper.

His investigative reporting for various community newspapers in the Puget Sound region has been recognized by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.

A graduate of Eastern Washington University, he has a B.A. in journalism and was the news editor of EWU’s student university newspaper.

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