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New greenhouse gas limits could affect 6 Whatcom plants

Associated Press

Workers start aluminum smelter pots on potline B at the Alcoa Intalco aluminum smelter west of Ferndale on Feb. 15, 2011. The state Department of Ecology has proposed capping greenhouse gases from the state’s 35 largest emitters, including Intalco.
Workers start aluminum smelter pots on potline B at the Alcoa Intalco aluminum smelter west of Ferndale on Feb. 15, 2011. The state Department of Ecology has proposed capping greenhouse gases from the state’s 35 largest emitters, including Intalco. The Bellingham Herald

The state Department of Ecology on Monday, Sept. 21, proposed capping greenhouse gases from the state’s 35 largest emitters, rolling out a new rule-making process months after Gov. Jay Inslee failed to get legislation passed on his ambitious cap-and-trade plan.

The agency began writing a rule to limit – and reduce over time – the amount of heat-trapping gases from the state’s largest industrial facilities, including power plants, refineries and landfills. Six Whatcom County facilities could be affected.

“The governor asked us to take action because we have too much at stake,” Ecology Director Maia Bellon said in a call with reporters. She cited drought and devastating wildfires as “sobering examples” of what will happen if the state fails to act.

Ecology officials said the rule would apply to facilities emitting 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, which would capture about 60 percent of the state’s overall carbon emissions. Those that don’t comply could face penalties like those used to enforce other regulations.

After state lawmakers failed to act on Inslee’s plan to charge emissions from oil refineries, power plants and fuel suppliers, the governor said he would use his executive authority to develop a regulatory cap under the state’s Clean Air Act. In July, he directed Ecology to come up with a binding cap.

Unlike legislation Inslee sought earlier this year, this proposal won’t charge emitters for carbon pollution. Inslee had pitched his plan as a way to raise more than $1 billion a year for schools and other programs. His proposal was strongly opposed in the Republican-controlled Senate; it also never came up for a floor vote in the Democrat-controlled House.

Many of the details will be worked out as the agency gets input from the public in coming months. A formal draft rule is expected by December and a final rule should be completed by June 2016, Bellon said.

Ecology’s proposal would apply to fewer facilities – just 35 compared with about 130 facilities that would have been affected by Inslee’s initial cap-and-trade proposal.

The facilities affected by the Ecology Department’s proposal include Nucor Steel in Seattle, the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill in Longview, Alcoa Intalco Works near Ferndale, McCain Foods in Othello, Frederickson Power in Tacoma, Boise Paper in Wallula, and several Puget Sound Energy plants.

Whatcom County industries affected

The state Department of Ecology expects greenhouse gas limits, once set, will affect the following plants in Whatcom County:

- Alcoa Intalco Works,

- BP Cherry Point Refinery,

- Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery,

- Puget Sound Energy Ferndale generating station,

- Puget Sound Energy Sumas generating station.

Puget Sound Energy Encogen generating station in Bellingham also could be affected, but its current average emissions fall below the 100,000 metric tons threshold.

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