Ericksen says governor lacks authority under greenhouse-gas law to impose carbon plan by executive order

Opinion from attorney general provides support to Ericksen’s position

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.

Sen. Doug Ericksen says an opinion from the state attorney general’s office confirms his belief that Gov. Jay Inslee is not required to pursue a carbon-emissions cap based on the state law that sets future emissions goals.

Ericksen, who chairs the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, had raised three questions about how the state’s 2008 greenhouse-gas law might affect lawmakers’ options should Inslee take executive action on carbon emissions. The answers came in an informal opinion received Wednesday, about five weeks after Inslee publicly directed the state Department of Ecology to develop a “regulatory cap” on carbon emissions.

“Governor Inslee has repeatedly called the legislative goals set in 2008 a ‘statutory mandate’ that allows him to take executive action, but that simply is not the case. The attorney general’s opinion makes it clear that these goals have no legal standing which would compel the governor to pursue either cap-and-trade programs or carbon caps by executive order. I appreciate the clarification because it eliminates a distraction that has hampered our efforts to work on bipartisan solutions and chart a new energy future,” said Ericksen.

Ericksen has long held that the carbon-emission limits for 2020, 2035 and 2050 are goals, rather than statutory requirements which must be met at any cost. Nonetheless, he led the Senate this year to approve legislation that would reduce carbon emissions across the state while keeping power costs low and encouraging the creation of new manufacturing jobs. Inslee chose instead to make a failed push for a carbon tax.

The veteran Whatcom County lawmaker is hopeful that in light of the attorney general’s opinion, Ecology will suspend its work on new carbon-related regulations so the Senate can pick up where it left off when lawmakers return for their 2016 session.

“We will continue to work on new energy solutions for Washington’s future, building on the energy plan that came out of the Senate this year and the leadership of Senator Sharon Brown and Senator Tim Sheldon regarding clean nuclear energy,” Ericksen said.

“I’ve said it before: A clean environment doesn’t have to cause wrenching problems for our state economy or impose punitive taxes on the people of Washington. The attorney general’s opinion makes it clear that the greenhouse-gas law does not require Governor Inslee to target employers. I invite him to take a fresh look at the plan passed by the Senate, which would achieve real carbon reductions without costing jobs and hurting families.”

Click here for the attorney general’s opinion.