Washington state adopted a new rule Thursday to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from large carbon polluters, joining a handful of other states in capping emissions to address climate change.

Share story

Washington state adopted a new rule Thursday to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from large carbon polluters, joining a handful of other states in capping emissions to address climate change.

State environmental regulators finalized a rule requiring large industrial emitters to gradually reduce carbon emissions over time. The change will cover power plants, oil refineries, fuel distributors, pulp and paper mills and other industries.

“When we consider the challenges our communities face from climate change, we are compelled to act,” state Ecology Director Maia Bellon said at a news conference on Seattle’s waterfront.

Critics say it will hurt families, as costs are passed on to consumers; limit the state in attracting and retaining businesses; and hamper the ability of energy-intensive businesses to compete globally.

Most Read Stories

Cyber Sale! Save 90% on digital access.

Supporters say limiting heat-trapping gases is needed to protect human health and the environment; the state faces severe economic and environmental disruption from rising sea levels; increased risks of drought and wildfire, and other climate-change impacts.

Gov. Jay Inslee sought the rule last year after failing to gain legislative support for a more ambitious plan to charge polluters a fee, similar to California’s cap-and-trade program. A coalition of Northeast states also has a cap-and-trade program that applies to power plants.

Under Washington state’s rule, large carbon polluters will be required to reduce carbon emissions by an average of 1.7 percent annually. The rule would apply to those that release at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year. More facilities will likely be covered by the rule as the threshold is lowered over the coming decades.

Unlike the cap-and-trade legislation Inslee sought last year, the rule adopted Thursday won’t charge emitters a fee for carbon emissions. Inslee had previously pitched a polluter fee as a way to raise more than $1 billion a year for schools, transportation and other state needs.

Republican lawmakers have criticized Inslee, a Democrat, for taking executive action on the issue, saying lawmakers should set such policy. Some legislators have previously tried to prohibit the Ecology Department from passing such a rule.