Concerned that over-reaching climate change rules could have a devastating effect on Washington’s stagnant economic recovery, Republican members of the Washington State House Ecology and Parks Committee sent a letter to the state Department of Ecology (DOE) last week, asking the department to stop drafting rules governing greenhouse gas emissions.
Led by Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy and ranking Republican on the committee, the members write:
“Since Washington produces about 3/10ths of one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is statistically improbable that any one project rises to the level of having any impact on the climate pattern that would affect our state or the health of its citizens.
“The lack of food, housing, and health care that comes when hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed and are unable to take care of themselves poses a much greater threat, especially when increased regulations by the government could potentially make matters worse.”
“Our main concern is that DOE is going full steam ahead on the process to create, adopt, implement and enforce climate change policies despite the fact that the governor’s cap-and-trade legislation failed in the Legislature, and despite the fact that these rules could seriously harm our state’s economic recovery,” Short said. “Climate change is a global problem – it’s too big to address in a piecemeal fashion. Families and employers in our state are still dealing with new and increased taxes passed by the Legislature this year; they don’t need to be kicked by unnecessary and unproven environmental regulations while they’re down.”
Reps. Dan Kristiansen and Joel Kretz, members of the Joint Administrative Rules Committee (JARRC), said the need to stop DOE from implementing new climate change policies is similar to a recent scenario where the State Building Code Council was asked to delay the implementation of new costly, job-killing regulations.
“We need to stop and take a look at the unintended consequences of government actions,” said Kristiansen, R-Snohomish. “When government regulations begin to harm our economic recovery; and when they destroy jobs and make it harder for people to find work, we absolutely need to stop what we’re doing, take a step back and re-evaluate. That’s what we’re asking DOE to do.”
“Frankly, I don’t think the department has the authority to do what they’re doing in the first place,” said Kretz, R-Wauconda and deputy leader for the Washington House Republicans. “There is no statutory authority for the department to require individual citizens to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions on a project-by-project basis. I think we’re seeing a state agency aggressively pursuing an agenda of their own. Whether that’s with or without the consent of the governor remains to be seen.”
According to the Regulatory Fairness Act, state agencies can be required to prove that benefits from their rules justify added costs. By issuing guidelines instead of rules, DOE can circumvent this important step even though guidelines typically become the minimum standard the department will accept as compliance with law.
In the letter to DOE, the members specifically request that a small business impact statement be created if DOE fails to cease in drafting new greenhouse gas emission rules.
“There has to be some accountability in the process,” said Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee. “State agencies need to justify the expense of their proposed rules and regulations. The department needs to show us that their climate change rules are not going to cost us more money, more jobs, and make our state less competitive.”
According to Short, the letter to DOE has already been circulated around the department, including a copy sent to Janice Adair, special assistant to the director for climate change.
“I’m looking forward to hearing DOE’s response,” Short said. “There’s too much ambiguity involved in setting guidelines on a project-by-project basis. Are folks going to have to follow these rules to build a house? Is the department specifically trying to determine each families’ carbon footprint? This level of government control and influence needs to be checked. They need to know that someone’s watching them and is going to hold them accountable.”
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