Governor’s Hard Limit on Carbon Pollution is an Important Step


Climate change threatens our communities across the state, and its disruption is already a reality for the families of local immigrants all over the world. OneAmerica is committed to helping Washington State do its part to reduce the pollution that causes climate change, invest in solutions, and ensure all communities are equitably prepared for climate disruption.

Last week, the Washington State Department of Ecology released the Clean Air Rule, which puts a limit on climate change-causing carbon emissions from the state’s largest polluters. The effort began last summer when Governor Jay Inslee directed the Department of Ecology to craft a new, innovative way to mandate cleaner air across Washington State.

How it works

The rule sets a limit on carbon pollution and directs the state’s 24 largest polluters to reduce their emissions by 1.7% each year. Polluters, like oil refineries, cement plants, and waste facilities, have a couple of options for compliance: they can reduce their emissions on-site by adopting new technologies, they can purchase allowances – or the right to pollute – from out-of-state cap-and-trade systems like California’s, or they can do other projects within the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What Requires Improvement

While we’re pleased that the Governor has taken this important step to reduce carbon emission, OneAmerica has two primary concerns:

  • Polluters covered by the rule will choose the cheapest option for compliance – most likely out-of-state cap-and-trade allowances – rather than taking steps to improve air quality here in Washington.
  • The annual reduction rate of 1.7% is not steep enough to meet science-based recommendations for pollution reduction. We believe it’s time for the Washington State Legislature to adopt new, stricter emission limits that would help to increase the strength of this rule.

Opportunities for Accountability

In crafting the rule, the Department of Ecology took important steps to engage members of the Front and Centered coalition, including OneAmerica. We are pleased to see the inclusion of an environmental justice advisory committee, comprised of residents from communities that are burdened by air pollution who will oversee investments to improve air quality in those communities. We look forward to expanding the committee’s roles and responsibilities in future rounds of rulemaking, per the Department of Ecology’s invitation.

More Action Needed

Frontline communities across Washington State deserve a comprehensive, equitable approach to reducing pollution and softening the blows of climate disruption. By capping carbon, the pollution that causes climate change, the Clean Air Rule takes an important step. However, we know that immigrant communities and their families all over the world are demanding strong, equitable action on climate, and that carbon caps like the Clean Air Rule can only ever be one piece of a much bigger puzzle.

To learn more about how OneAmerica would like the rest of that puzzle to look, check out Front and Centered’s series on Equitable Carbon Pricing.

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