A King County Superior Court judge has found that the state Department of Ecology has both the authority and “mandatory duty” to move ahead with a proposal to regulate carbon emissions.

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A King County Superior Court judge has found that the state Department of Ecology has both the authority and “mandatory duty” to move ahead with a proposal to regulate carbon emissions.

Judge Hollis Hill’s decision, released Thursday, has been embraced by environmentalists who hope it sets a legal precedent that will help Ecology’s rule-making effort survive likely challenges.

In her 10-page ruling, Hill wrote that the state had the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which include carbon emissions from fossil fuels, both under the state Clean Air Act and the state Constitution.

“It’s a huge step forward for the law in Washington,” said Andrea Rodgers, a Western Environmental Law Center that represents Our Children’s Trust, a litigant in the case that spurred Hill’s finding.

But state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who has questioned whether the Ecology Department has authority to regulate carbon emissions, dismissed any significance in the judge’s findings. And, he doesn’t think it will set a precedent.

“This judge stated a political opinion, and it is another example of a liberal King County judge overstepping into the role of activism and legislation — and it should stop,” Ericksen said.

The state Department of Ecology is prepared to release a proposed rule to regulate carbon emissions next month. The rule is expected to cover major emitters that the state holds as responsible for about 60 percent of the carbon pollution released in Washington.

“We are satisfied that the court’s order recognizes that the rule-making directed by Governor Inslee will meet Ecology’s obligation to protect our climate from harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” said state Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon, in response to Hill’s ruling.