Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with Sound Publishing staff during a meeting on Jan. 20 at the Bellevue Reporter office. Photo by Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with Sound Publishing staff during a meeting on Jan. 20 at the Bellevue Reporter office. Photo by Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter

Judge delivers crushing blow to Inslee’s Clean Air Rule

It was the centerpiece of the governor’s crusade against climate change. Now it’s gone.

Twenty-seven months ago Gov. Jay Inslee set out to curb emission of carbon pollutants through a sweeping rewrite of the state’s clean air rules.

A week ago a Thurston County judge said Inslee’s executive fiat went too far.

Superior Court Judge James Dixon concluded the governor’s Department of Ecology exceeded its authority with the regulatory scheme it developed and had been taking steps to put in place.

Inslee didn’t issue a statement on receiving this legal lump of coal.

His spokeswoman, Jaime Smith, said in an email that the ruling is “disappointing” and they are looking into options the department can pursue.

The rule targeted the state’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, such as natural gas distributors, petroleum product producers and importers, power plants, metal manufacturers, and landfill operators. Large manufacturing operations, such as the Boeing Co. plant in Everett, also made the list of those expected to be affected at some point in the future.

Inslee wanted to require those large polluters to reduce carbon emissions by an average of 1.7 percent annually. Initially, the rule would apply to those that release at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year. Every three years the threshold would drop and as a result more companies would be subject to the requirements.

From the outset, the Association of Washington Business (AWB) opposed the approach as an overreach from the executive branch. Two years and 29,000 pages of legal filings later, a judge agreed.

Dixon, ruling from the bench, concluded the department’s regulatory reach is limited to those companies that directly introduce contaminates into the air, said Bob Battles, AWB’s general counsel. It lacked authority to regulate suppliers of natural gas and petroleum products because they are not an emitting party, he said.

This is a crushing blow for the governor.

The clean air rule is the centerpiece of Inslee’s legislative and political crusade against climate change. He’s called it “the nation’s first Clean Air Rule, to cap and reduce carbon pollution.” He touted it on college campuses around the state and at international conferences around the globe.

Now it’s gone.

There may be an appeal. Ecology’s lawyers want to see if at least the portion of the rule applying to emitters such as refineries can go forward.

But adjudicating this matter further will take time. If there are appeals, it’s unlikely the regulation as now written could be enforced before the end of the governor’s second, and possibly last, term as governor.

At this point, he’s got to be looking to the Legislature or the electorate for an assist.

Democratic lawmakers could provide it by using their majorities in the House and Senate to send him legislation directing new regulations be imposed on carbon polluters.

And it’s probably just a happy coincidence that Dec. 14, one day before the judge put the kibosh on his rule, Inslee said he’ll put forth a new carbon pricing scheme sometime next month which they’ll be able to consider.

But Dems have struggled mightily to agree among themselves on what to do on climate change so don’t count on 2018 being much different.

Voters seem like the best bet at this point.

If environmentalists can get a measure on next November’s ballot and wealthy Inslee friends like billionaire Tom Steyer cq JC pony up enough dough, it could pass.

That certainly would ease the sting of getting the lump of coal.

More in Opinion

Signs of progress in ending sexual violence | GUEST OP

The conversation surrounding sexual violence has grown louder in recent months as… Continue reading

Straw pulp looks like a good option | Brunell

Columbia Pulp project is a win-win for the environment and the economy

Signature of registered voter is a coveted commodity

The competitive nature of the initiative and referendum season now peaking in Washington.

Washington’s expensive culvert court case | Brunell

While much of the media buzz over declining salmon runs focuses on… Continue reading

Growth, knowledge, learning at your library | KCLS

Spring is the time of year when many of us focus on… Continue reading

Where my daughter goes to school isn’t political – it’s personal | GUEST OP

By Kesha Senters/For the Kent Reporter I’ll admit it. I am a… Continue reading

Photo by Michael O’Leary/Everett Herald
                                Photo by Michael O’Leary/Everett Herald
Eyman says he will spend $500K of his own money on initiative

The conservative activist’s self-financing claim points to a lack of deep-pocketed donors.

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Brunell

With Western States wildfires growing in size and destroying more homes, farms… Continue reading

Eyman putting his latest fight on his tab

Activist using own money in signature-gathering drive to place a $30 car tab measure in front of voters

Cooperation spawns hope

Call to reach common ground and a shared pain

Candidates gear up to run in a crowded House

Dynamic in four contests reflects what is occurring in many House contests across the nation in 2018

Yogi’s wisdom is worth thinking about| Brunell

The late great philosopher Yogi Berra once proclaimed: “The future ain’t what… Continue reading