Still Some "Surprises" to Fix With Governor's Proposed Climate Regulation

Mar 6, 2016

Just over a week ago, the Department of Ecology announced it was withdrawing the draft rule on carbon emissions. Soon after, Ecology Director Maia Bellon tweeted that they were just changing the rule and that they were “keeping the momentum going.”

It appears, however, they still have a number of problems to solve. Several major manufacturers wrote a letter to the Governor noting that the rules would likely result in companies leaving the state and, ironically, increasing worldwide emissions.

But there are other issues.

The Governor announced Washington’s system would look to link with the cap-and-trade systems in California and the Northeast, known as RGGI for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Apparently, they still have some ways to go to in making that link. Last December, Jared Snyder, the Assistant Commissioner for Climate Change and Energy in New York, e-mailed the Department of Ecology to complain about the Governor’s announcement. He wrote, diplomatically:

Hi Bill, I was a little surprised to see the Governor speak publicly about possibly using RGGI allowances (and maybe you were also).  That’s not a huge problem but it accelerates the need to have a conversation with some of the other RGGI states.

Would you be available for a call with a few RGGI states next week?  Please send me some time slots that would work for you.

Thanks, Jared

E-mails at the end of January indicate they still had not made progress on working out the issues related to linking to the RGGI system.

Without connections to the California or RGGI markets, Washington manufacturers could see very high costs to meet the carbon reduction targets. Linking, however, could mean taking credits away from companies in California and the Northeast, increasing their costs of compliance.

Washington had similar problems trying to link a proposed cap-and-trade system with California during Governor Gregoire’s term. There were fundamental differences that could not be overcome, such as how to count emissions reductions. Those problems have not gone away.

These are the sorts of complications you run into when you try and jam a regulation through on an arbitrary timeline. The Governor demanded the rule be finished by the summer. Last year, Stu Clark the program manager overseeing the rule, told the Everett Herald, "A complex rule like this can typically take us 18 months to 24 months to do. It must be built from the bottom up. Everybody will get their say.”

That timeline has been thrown out the window and it is, apparently, full speed ahead.