Washington state proposes tough CO2-reduction rule for various industries

The Washington Department of Ecology on Jan. 6 put out for comment a proposed rule that would set Washington’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution.

After working with industry, local governments, environmentalists, and the public to gain input on how to limit carbon pollution, the Department of Ecology is now sharing details of the clean air rule. Ecology is seeking more feedback until April 8 through public comment and stakeholder meetings to further refine the rule.

About 60% of Washington’s greenhouse gases would be covered under the proposed rule that would first set a maximum limit on these emissions and then gradually reduce them over time. Natural gas distributors, petroleum fuel producers/importers, power plants, metal manufacturers, waste facilities and some other organizations responsible for 100,000 metric tons or more of greenhouse gases in Washington would be required to reduce their carbon emissions 5% every three years. In addition to gradually reducing their carbon pollution, organizations could obtain credits from other participants and carbon markets, or fund projects that reduce carbon pollution.

Notable is that the state’s only coal-fired power plant, TransAlta‘s Centralia facility, is already under a state greenhouse gas mandate from earlier this decade to shut one of its coal units in 2020, and the second and final one in 2025.

“It’s important that we act now to protect our water supplies, infrastructure and economy for future generations,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon in a Jan. 6 statement. “I’m a big believer in partnerships and now is the time for industry and the environmental community to collaborate with us on the best approach.”

Ecology’s proposed rule comes on the heels of the international summit of world leaders to address climate change. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, along with other state leaders, attended the conference where over 190 countries agreed to ward off the impacts of climate change and signed an accord committing to reduce carbon pollution as soon as possible.

“Cities and counties across our state are taking action now to protect their transportation systems, water supplies and homes from climate change damage,” said Sarah Rees, Ecology’s climate change policy lead. “Now’s the time for the state to do its part.”

A report released in November 2015 by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group revealed that Washington is already experiencing climate change impacts projected in a study they released in 2005. Washington’s economy, environment and way of life are threatened by diminishing snowpack, increased flooding and sea level rise.

Four public hearings on the rule will be held by webinar and in person throughout March.

The following types of emissions are not covered as stationary sources by the proposed rule:

  • GHG emissions from suppliers of petroleum products.
  • GHG emissions from suppliers of natural gas and natural gas liquids.
  • GHG emissions from manure management.
  • Emissions of carbon dioxide from industrial combustion of biomass in the form of fuel wood, wood waste, wood by-products, and wood residuals.
  • Coal-based emissions from a coal-fired baseload generation facility in Washington that emitted more than one million tons of GHG in any calendar year before 2008. This would be Centralia.

The above exemptions are based on existing federal and state laws or definitions, or based on coverage under other parts of the proposed rule, except manure management.

The parties with covered GHG emissions must comply with the proposed rule beginning in their first year of operation, if they exceed the following thresholds:

  • 100 thousand MT per year in years 2017 through 2019;
  • 95 thousand MT per year in years 2020 through 2022;
  • 90 thousand MT per year in years 2023 through 2025;
  • 85 thousand MT per year in years 2026 through 2028;
  • 80 thousand MT per year in years 2029 through 2031;
  • 75 thousand MT per year in years 2032 through 2034; and
  • 70 thousand MT per year in 2035.

The power plants/producers to be covered by the rule as of 2017 are:

  • Frederickson Power LP, located at Tacoma;
  • Grays Harbor Energy Center, located at Elma;
  • PacifiCorp Energy – Chehalis Generating Facility, located at Chehalis;
  • Puget Sound Energy – Ferndale Generating Station, located at Ferndale;
  • Puget Sound Energy – Goldendale Generating Station, located at Goldendale;
  • Puget Sound Energy – Mint Farm Generating Station, located at Longview;
  • Puget Sound Energy – Sumas Generating Station, located at Sumas;
  • River Road Generating Plant, located at Vancouver;
  • Enwave, located at Seattle;
  • H.W. Hill Landfill Gas Power Plant, located at Roosevelt; and
  • Puget Sound Energy – Encogen Generating Station, located at Bellingham.

Depending on a variety of factors, additional parties may have an obligation while others on this list may fall off. This list is Ecology’s best estimate of covered parties based on currently available data, and may change with future data availability.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.