New rules would limit local carbon emissions

By Steve Guntli

New legislation could reduce carbon emissions from the biggest polluters in the state, which includes several sites in Whatcom County.

On January 6, the Department of Ecology (DOE) proposed a clean air rule, which would require the state’s largest industrial complexes to reduce carbon emissions by 5 percent every three years. The new rule is intended to protect the environment and reduce the harmful effects of climate change, according to DOE director Maia Bellon. If approved, the rule would initially apply to more than 20 facilities that produce more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon each year, based on emissions reports from 2012 to 2015.

In Whatcom County, this would include BP’s Cherry Point oil refinery, the Phillips 66 refinery in Ferndale and two Puget Sound Energy generating stations in Ferndale and Sumas. Alcoa’s Intalco plant in Ferndale, which will idle much of its operations by April, will likely be included in a second wave of businesses.

Companies can comply with the new rule in various ways, including sponsoring programs that will reduce the overall carbon footprint over time or purchasing carbon credits from companies in California. Companies can also earn credits by reducing their footprint more than the required amount.

The rule changes come via an order from Governor Jay Inslee. The governor tasked the DOE with revising the rules to limit carbon emissions after his own plan to limit industrial emissions through a cap-and-trade proposition failed in the state legislature.

DOE officials say the clean air rule would account for about 60 percent of the state’s overall carbon emissions. The long-term goal is to reduce the level of greenhouse gases to the state average from 1990.

DOE will hold four public hearings on the new rule, which is expected to be finalized this summer.

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