The Capitol Record

Ecology outlines new clean air, water rules raising questions from chair about authority

The Department of Ecology outlined plans for new air and water pollution rules on Thursday at a Senate committee, drawing questions from the Republican chairman about whether the agency has the authority to act.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee directed the department in July to develop a cap for carbon emissions under the state’s Clean Air Act after his own proposed cap-and-trade plan did not advance in the Legislature during the 2015 session.

Ecology is also moving forward with a new fish consumption rule that determines the amount of pollutants allowed in the state’s waterways. Inslee directed Ecology to rewrite those rules in October to match federal recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, questioned why the rulemaking was being done through the executive branch instead of the legislative branch. “At what point is there no point in having a Legislature?” he asked.

Ecology director Maia Bellon acknowledged there is “jostling” between the legislative and executive branches, but said she believes the department is acting under existing environmental laws.

“I feel comfortable that we have that authority,” Bellon said.

Ecology representatives updated the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee on the agency’s proposed rules.

The proposed clean air rule sets a cap on carbon pollution that would affect 31 companies in Washington that emit more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, such as industrial plants, power plants and landfills. The program is expected to begin in 2017, with the first emission reduction deadline in 2020.

The clean water rule is tied to a fish consumption rate that assumes residents can safely eat fish that is caught in the state’s rivers, lakes and streams. The proposal would increase the state’s fish consumption rate from 6.5 grams of fish per day to 175 grams, or about one fish fillet a day. It assumes a cancer risk rate of one in a million, which is more protective than previous proposals.

Read Ecology’s documents here.

TVW taped the committee hearing. It will be posted at this link.

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