Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gets into an SUV after speaking March 6 on a nonpartisan panel discussion titled “Foreign Affairs and National Security in the Age of Climate Change” hosted by the University of Washington Jackson School and the American Security Project on the UW campus in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gets into an SUV after speaking March 6 on a nonpartisan panel discussion titled “Foreign Affairs and National Security in the Age of Climate Change” hosted by the University of Washington Jackson School and the American Security Project on the UW campus in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Showdown on Inslee’s clean air rule reaches Supreme Court

Justices will consider whether Inslee had authority to impose regulations. A lower court said no.

OLYMPIA — In 2015, after another session without procuring a key weapon in his climate change fighting strategy, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee decided to get it done on his own.

He had pledged to combat a looming environmental cataclysm and was tired of lawmakers thwarting attempts to engage in the battle in a meaningful way.

Tapping into his executive powers, Inslee directed the state Department of Ecology to design a means of capping and, over time, reducing emissions of pollution-abetting carbon.

A sweeping rewrite of the state’s clean air rules emerged. A legal challenge from a few of those in the crosshairs of the new regulations ensued. And in December 2017 a Thurston County judge found the gubernator’s decree went too far and blocked the rule from taking effect.

On March 19, the content of the rule and the breadth of Inslee’s executive authority will be considered by the state Supreme Court.

Ironically, such flexing of executive muscle on behalf of one’s political agenda is what we’ve come to expect from President Donald Trump, the man whose job Inslee is seeking. It’s been Trump’s go-to exercise when stymied by Congress from keeping his political promises.

Trump has pretty much lost every courtroom encounter. It’ll be a few months before the fate of Inslee’s endeavor is known.

The rule crafted by the governor’s ecology agency set emission standards for both stationary sources of pollutants and purveyors of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases when burned.

It targeted the state’s largest emitters such as natural gas distributors, petroleum product producers and importers, power plants, metal manufacturers and landfill operators. Large manufacturing operations, such as the Boeing Co. plant in Everett, also made the list of those expected to be affected at some point.

Inslee wanted to require each of the 68 outfits on the list to reduce carbon emissions by an average of 1.7 percent annually. Initially, the rule would apply to those that release at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon a year. Every three years the threshold would drop and as a result more companies would be subject to the requirements.

In the legal challenge, natural gas providers argue the rule should not apply to them as they do not generate emissions which they can reduce. The Association of Washington Business contends the approach is a flat-out overreach from the executive branch.

AWB lawyers argue in their brief that Inslee had become “fed up” with the Legislature when it didn’t act in 2015 and ordered the agency to come up with the rule.

“As Ecology conceded in an internal memorandum: ‘Alternatives were not considered because the Department of Ecology was directed by Governor Inslee to develop and adopt a rule,’” they wrote.

State attorneys counter the department has “broad authority” to set emission standards and the rule “should be upheld in its entirety.”

But each provision can be dealt with separately, they contend. If one is found invalid, the rest “can remain in place and perform the important task of reducing Washington State’s greenhouse gas emissions,” they wrote.

The Supreme Court hearing comes as Democratic lawmakers are on course to enact several bills — such as a low-carbon fuel standard and providing electricity from non fossil fuel sources — which are projected to reduce carbon emissions on a par with what the Clean Air Rule originally sought to accomplish.

Inslee still wants the rule. If restored by the court, it would further embolden the governor and presidential candidate on his self-proclaimed mission to save the world for future generations from the devastation of climate change.

“I filed an executive order that I believe is totally within my executive authority to do,” Inslee told a crowd of mostly students at a University of Washington forum earlier this month. “ There’s some dispute about that and the Supreme Court is going to decide. I hope they decide it in favor of all of our grandchildren.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paine Field Airport director departing for Sea-Tac job

Arif Ghouse, who oversaw the launch of commercial air travel at Paine Field, is leaving after eight years.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Public school enrollment still down, even as rural districts grow

Smaller districts in Snohomish County seem to be recovering more quickly — and gaining students — than their urban counterparts.

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Amid patient woes, CHC of Snohomish County staffers push for a union

Doctors and nurse practitioners are worried about providers being shut out from clinical decisions, which hurts patient care.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After Edmonds schools internet outage, staff ‘teaching like it’s the 1900s’

“Suspicious activities” on the district’s network delayed classes and caused schedule havoc. “Kids are using pencil and paper again.”

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Retooling drug laws, protecting octopus and honoring a cactus

It’s already Day 26. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

April Berg, left, and John Lovick
Snohomish County legislators talk race, policy in Seattle

Rep. April Berg and Sen. John Lovick chatted about Tyre Nichols and education at an event kicking off Black History Month.

A suspect removes a rifle bag from a broken rear window of a Seattle police car on May 30 in downtown Seattle. An Everett man, Jacob D. Little, 24, has been charged with the theft of the high-powered rifle stolen from the car. This image is from the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. 20200904
Everett man sentenced for stealing police gun in Seattle protest

Jacob Little, 26, now faces second-degree murder charges for allegedly killing a man in Renton in August 2020.

Switzerland delegate Markus Herrmann listens while 12th grade students speak with him during a special event set up for their AP Comparative Government class at Glacier Peak High School on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
European delegates talk American culture with Glacier Peak students

Representatives from 18 different EU countries made a stop in Snohomish during their US tour.

Community Transit is leasing a 60-foot articulated BYD battery electric bus this year as an early step in the zero emission planning process. (Community Transit)
Community Transit testing 60-foot electric bus

The agency leased the BYD K11M for $132,000 this year as the first step in its zero-emission planning process.

Most Read