SB 6628 revises the definitions of emission and emission standard to include direct or indirect releases or emissions of air contaminants into the ambient air. It authorizes the Department of Ecology to require persons who produce or distribute fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases to comply with air quality and emission standards or emission limits on greenhouse gases. The Washington State Clean Air Rule required lowering emissions 1.7% a year, but it was invalidated by the State Supreme Court because it involved indirect releases from gas distributors and refineries. This bill is dead for this session but may be introduced next year.
Discussion of the Bill
Senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) questioned “indirect,” asking how small an entity might be affected. Chris Davis of the Governor’s Office said that the rule did not cover small uses such as lawnmowers. He also said that we were not on track to meet emissions limits set by RCW 70.235 in 2008. The Clean Air Rule put us back on track but the Supreme Court undermined this approach. Indirect sources supply fuel and natural gas so they are the major sources that can be controlled. The Supreme Court said that the Legislature can expand the definition and validate the rule. Eriksen asked if the federal Clean Air Act endangerment finding was overturned, would the state Department of Ecology no longer have authority to regulate GHGs. Chair Reuven Carlyle (D – Ballard) asked if the court ruling was clear on the Department of Ecology rule for 1.7% percent reduction a year; Davis said yes.
Climate Solutions said the Clean Air Rule is promoting health and safety, and vehicle emissions are a principal source of threats to health and safety. Washington Conservation Voters said the bill responds to climate crisis, is one of the principal tools for climate action. Natural Resources Defense Council said this bill will bring our toolbox into the 21stCentury. Transportation fuels are one of largest sources of GHG in Washington. Nature Conservancy noted that climate change affects land use, particularly from wildfires. League of Women Voters said climate change is affecting Washington State’s health and safety. This bill is an important part of a climate action package. Audubon Washington said climate change is major threat to birds. A high school student said that vehicle pollution affects her health. Puget Sound Clear Agency said that indirect emissions should be regulated. The Department of Health said the bill will reduce GHGs and improve public health, particularly in frontline communities. Northwest Energy Coalition said the bill is consistent with clean energy and climate goals.
Western State Petroleum Association said the bill represents a major threat to Washington prosperity; the petroleum industry tried to work with Department of Ecology but could not get cooperation so sued in court. Washington Recycle and Refuse Association said that wastes are not generated by the waste industry, but must work with Clean Air Act and the state rule to regulate methane. Cascade Natural Gas pledged support for a carbon tax but opposes 6628. Puget Sound Energy said a utility is legally required to provide gas to customers who request it, and PSE would be unable to meet the terms of Clean Air Rule. Avista Corporation said that the regulation of GHG on a state-by-state basis is problematic. Law requires utilities to supply gas to all customers who request it, so regulation is unmanageable. Association of Washington Business is concerned that the bill grants the Department of Ecology too much authority to regulate emissions.