Legal challenges to carbon-cap rule expose Inslee abuse of authority, Ericksen says

  • Utilities, industry find numerous grounds for challenge.
  • Governor’s fellow Democrats rejected similar plan in 2009.
  • Plan will hurt working families, Washington industry, with no measurable benefit.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

OLYMPIA – A new spate of legal challenges to Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon-cap rule is not just expected but thoroughly warranted, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said Wednesday.

“This idea was bad enough when the Legislature rejected it,” said Ericksen, chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. “But for the governor to decide he can jeopardize the economy all by himself is the height of arrogance.”

In separate legal actions Tuesday, major Washington business organizations and natural gas-distribution utilities filed suit to block the state Department of Ecology from imposing new restrictions on carbon emissions. The regulations, adopted by Ecology Sept. 15 at Inslee’s direction, mirror a cap-and-trade plan rejected by lawmakers in 2009.

The plan requires oil refiners and natural-gas distributors to reduce their own carbon emissions – and in a new element, also would make them responsible for the emissions of their customers, including motorists and homeowners. Companies unable to achieve emissions targets on their own would be expected to purchase pollution-reduction credits from other sources. The regulations also affect major Washington manufacturers.

“Radical schemes to remake our economy and impose central government control are fashionable in some quarters, but the Legislature is right to put its foot down,” Ericksen said. “We can expect dramatic increases in energy prices that will create misery for struggling families and hobble the competitiveness of Washington industry, yet do nothing for the environment.

“But even greater danger occurs when a governor decides the people and their representatives can be ignored. The most immediate threat we face is to our democracy.”

The utility suit was filed in federal court in Spokane by Avista Corp, Cascade Natural Gas Corp., NW Natural and Puget Sound Energy. It alleges that the Inslee Administration violates the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution by failing to credit utilities for emissions reductions beyond the state’s borders. Business organizations filed suit in Thurston County Superior Court on different grounds, challenging the authority of the Inslee Administration under state law to impose the rule without approval of the Legislature. That suit, filed by the Association of Washington Business and seven trade groups, identifies numerous procedural problems in addition.