Washington to Set Carbon Pollution Limits to Help Slow Climate Change

Work that will help protect the state’s land, air, water, public health, and economy from climate change is underway in Olympia.

Today, the Washington Department of Ecology formally began writing a rule that would require the state’s largest polluters to reduce their greenhouse gases. Ecology is considering businesses and organizations that are responsible for producing 100,000 metric tons or more of greenhouse gases be covered under the rule. The types of businesses include:

  • Natural gas distributors
  • Petroleum fuel producers
  • Factories
  • Power plants
  • Waste facilities
  • Metal manufacturers

In July 2015, Gov. Jay Inslee directed Ecology to strengthen existing air pollution rules and set limits on greenhouse gases to help meet emission reductions passed by the Legislature in 2008. Inslee said Washingtonians have too much at stake to wait any longer for action on climate change.

“This year’s record-setting drought and wildfires are sobering examples of what our future could look like if we don’t take action on climate change,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “We need to do our part to protect what we have for future generations. We can’t afford the cost of inaction.”

Greenhouse gases, most of which come from the carbon dioxide emitted from power plants, industry and vehicles, are driving significant changes in the Earth’s climate and influencing weather patterns in the Pacific Northwest.

Washington is particularly vulnerable to a warming climate. Communities depend on snow-fed water supplies to provide drinking water, irrigation for agriculture, and almost 75 percent of the state’s electrical power. Nearly 40 communities, including many of our largest population centers, are threatened by sea level rise along Washington’s 2,300 miles of shoreline. And shellfish beds, which are a major industry on Washington’s coast, are susceptible to ocean acidification – created when carbon dioxide reacts with seawater.

The carbon reductions being considered would contribute to slowing these effects. Regulated businesses would have a broad range of compliance options. In addition to gradually reducing their carbon pollution, businesses could obtain or trade credits from others, or fund projects that reduce carbon pollution.

Over the next year Ecology will hold a series of public meetings and hearings to gather input from everyone interested in participating. A schedule of meetings and other ways to participate will be updated on Ecology’s website over the next several weeks.

“We’re at the beginning stages and want to craft the rule together with industry, tribes, environmental groups and the public to ensure clean air in Washington,” Bellon said.