In a close ruling, the state Supreme Court has partially invalidated the Clean Air Rule drafted by the Department of Ecology.
The court says it cannot be used to regulate companies that sell or distribute petroleum or natural gas, because they don't make their own greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters of climate action remain optimistic.
The state's clean air rule was created by executive order from Gov. Jay Inslee in 2015. He was upbeat about the Supreme Court ruling, pointing out that the majority opinion cites "the undeniable crisis" of climate change in its first sentence — but says it's up to state lawmakers to address it.
“So the venue now for that dramatic action is the Legislature this year,” Inslee said Thursday.
The 5-4 ruling says the state's Clean Air Rule still applies to the largest polluters — think companies with smoke stacks. But it doesn't cover the state’s largest overall source of emissions — transportation — or the refineries that create transportation fuels.
Inslee says this ups the urgency for the clean fuel standard he and others have been pushing for. It failed last session because of concerns that the price of gas will go up, which the governor dismisses.
“Given a choice between allowing Australia to burn down, and those fires to burn down the state of Washington, and if there are a few pennies — I think the choice is pretty clear on that,” Inslee said. “We want to preserve our state. And our state’s worth that. So we’re happy to make that argument any day.”
He says you can look to Oregon, California or British Columbia for case studies of how a clean fuel standard would play out; Washington is the only state on the West Coast without the policy.
Still, farmers, truckers and others concerned about gas prices turned out in full force Thursday to testify against the proposal in a Senate committee.