Washington Governor Jay Inslee calls climate change an “existential threat,” and he has channeled President Obama in using executive powers to impose his policy response.
But like Mr. Obama, he suffered a major blow this month when a Washington court ruled that he exceeded his authority under state law.
Washington lawmakers have declined to pass Mr. Inslee’s signature cap-and-trade legislation, and in 2016 voters rejected a carbon-tax ballot measure.
So “now we have to do it administratively,” the Sierra Club’s Doug Howell said last year.
Mr. Inslee suddenly discovered authority to act unilaterally under the Washington Clean Air Act and a 2008 law that required greenhouse gas reductions.
The Department of Ecology’s subsequent Clean Air Rule required the state’s largest emitters to reduce carbon emissions by 1.7% annually, or else buy carbon credits or invest in carbon-offsets.
This sweeping regulation affected manufacturers, waste facilities, and government buildings, and it imposed a de facto tax on “indirect emitters” like oil and natural gas suppliers.
Regardless of their actual emissions, the Inslee Administration wanted to penalize businesses for peddling energy products it doesn’t like.
And it estimated that indirect emitters were responsible for around three-fourths of the carbon emissions covered under the regulation—though they can’t control what others emit.
The Department of Ecology’s own economic impact analysis found that the Clean Air Rule’s total compliance costs could run as high as $6.9 billion over 20 years and result in 3,200 to 4,500 job losses by 2035.
And in a Dec. 15 oral ruling, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon found that the Inslee Administration lacked the legal authority to regulate indirect emitters.
The decision is a victory for the rule of law and another rebuke to progressives who try to ignore democratic consent to impose their climate agenda by regulatory fiat.
Democrats now control Washington’s House and Senate, and if they want to pass Mr. Inslee’s agenda, including a new carbon tax, they have the power to do so the old-fashioned way—with legislative votes.
Washington residents can then hold them responsible for the enormous costs.
Appeared in the December 28, 2017, print edition.
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