Washington governor slams ruling on power plant emissions

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court “took a wrecking ball” to the ability of the federal government to limit pollution and said that states must redouble their efforts to address climate change.

With a 6-3 vote, the court said that the Clean Air Act does not give the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming.

“This is a health danger that we are now exposed to, and all Americans are exposed to,” Inslee said at a news conference Friday.

Republican Sen. John Braun said Thursday’s opinion was “about the rule of law.”

“It is up to Congress to authorize new regulations that the EPA has been implementing on its own, especially regulations that carry billions of dollars in economic ramifications,” he said in a written statement. “Executive-branch officials don’t get to do this themselves. It’s entirely appropriate for the Supreme Court to reinforce the separation of powers between the branches of government.”

Inslee said that ruling wouldn’t affect Washington’s efforts to transition off of coal, with the state’s only coal plant still on track to close by 2025. But he said that states will still be impacted by the ruling.

“The federal government now is going to be much less effective in restraining pollution, which means more of that burden is going to be on our shoulders,” he said. “Washington state is not going to allow climate change to swallow our state.”

Inslee cited actions the state has already taken, like a carbon pricing program signed into law last year that requires the state’s largest emitters, like refineries, to purchase credits for allowed emissions if they exceed a cap set by regulators. And in 2019, the Legislature passed a measure that directs the Department of Ecology to adopt a clean fuels program similar to ones in California and Oregon. It requires fuel producers to start reducing the carbon intensity in their products starting with 0.5% in 2023 and working up to 20% below 2017 levels by 2038.

But Inslee said the state must do more to reach carbon reduction goals set by the Legislature in 2020, and that reducing the use of gas should be among the policies lawmakers consider next year.

In April the state’s Building Code Council adopted revisions to the state’s energy code that require new businesses and apartments to mostly use heat pumps to warm air and water starting next year. The new rules take effect on July 1, 2023.

Similar heat pump proposals are being made for the residential section of the state energy code, and will be considered by the council over the next few months.

“If we’re going to meet our climate change goals we can’t continue to use this dirty gas,” Inslee said.