A revised HB 289 granting the state Department of Ecology the broad authority to regulate “indirect” carbon emission as part of its Clean Air Rule advanced out of the House Environment & Energy Committee in a 7-4 vote on Feb. 6. The substitute bill contains several changes, including a clearer definition of what constitutes “indirect” greenhouse gas emissions.
The bill comes at the request of Governor Jay Inslee in response to a Washington State Supreme Court ruling last year invalidating much of the Clean Air Rule for lacking statutory authority.
“If we’re going to be serious about addressing climate change in this state, we cannot have a Clean Air Act…that does not take into account oil and gas,” Chair Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) told colleagues. “That’s fundamentally what this bill is about.”
Under the substitute bill, “indirect” emissions are defined as “the emissions from the production or distribution of fuels, including electricity, where the release of air contaminants into the ambient air occurs during the consumption, use, combustion, or oxidation of the fuels.”
However, legislators opposed to the bill said there are still underlying problems with the legislation. Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-20) said that while some of the bill language would provide better consistency, he added that “sometimes bills have unintended consequences that we just don’t understand.” He cited a 2011 state ban on copper bottom paint that was put on hold before implementation when it was discovered there was no alternative.
“I worry about this (outcome) on this bill,” he said. “I think there’s an economic analysis piece that needs to be done. I think there are some counties that need to be considered.”
Among the amendments incorporated into the bill is a provision nullifying new agency authority “upon the enactment of a more comprehensive greenhouse gas emission program that puts a price on fossil fuel emissions and that is designed and forecasted to achieve statutory emission reduction limits.”
Aside from the high court ruling, Rep. Beth Doglio (D-22) remarked that the bill is the result of failed efforts to impose a carbon tax both in the legislature and through voter initiative, though DeBolt responded “this is not what we’re voting on today.”
“We have a responsibility to protect those farms and forests, but it doesn’t come with just flood plain work and habitat restoration,” Doglio said. “it comes with actually reducing carbon quickly and rapidly, and because we haven’t been able to do it through legislation, we need to do this right now.”
HB 2892 has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.