SEATTLE (AP) — The state's largest industrial emitters would be required to reduce carbon emissions by 5 percent every three years, under a proposed rule released Wednesday by state regulators.
The Department of Ecology's proposed Clean Air Rule would initially apply to about two dozen manufacturing plants, refineries, power plants and other facilities, or those that release at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year. Many more facilities would likely be covered as the threshold declines over time.
State officials say the rule is needed to protect human health and the environment from climate change. But some business groups and others have worried that the efforts could hurt the state's ability to attract and retain industries.
"It's important that we act now to protect our water supplies, infrastructure and economy for future generations," Ecology Director Maia Bellon said in a prepared statement.
The draft rule comes after Gov. Jay Inslee failed last year to get legislation passed on his ambitious cap-and-trade plan that would have charged industrial facilities a fee for carbon emissions. In July, Inslee used his executive authority and directed Ecology to limit carbon pollution using its existing authority under the state's Clean Air Act.
Meanwhile, two competing efforts are trying to limit carbon pollution through statewide initiatives.
In one effort, backers of Initiative 732 have turned in more than 325,000 signatures on a proposal to tax carbon pollution at $25 a metric ton while lowering other state taxes. If verified, I-732 would go before the Legislature. If lawmakers don't act, the measure would go on the 2016 ballot.
A coalition of environmental, labor and social justice groups, the Alliance for Clean Jobs and Energy, is also planning a statewide ballot initiative. That measure hasn't been finalized but could impose new fees on carbon pollution and direct the money for clean-energy projects, low-income communities and other causes.
Officials say its Clean Air Rule would capture about 60 percent of the state's overall carbon emissions. Those that don't comply could face penalties like those used to enforce other regulations.
Facilities would have different ways to comply with the rule, including reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, buying credits from others in the program or sponsoring projects that permanently reduce carbon pollution.
The agency has scheduled four public hearings before finalizing a rule.