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Ass'n of Washington Business v. Washington State Department of Ecology

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20021
Nos. 95885-8, (Wash., 01/16/2020)

The Washington Supreme Court invalidated a rule promulgated by the state's Department of Ecology authorizing regulation via emission standards of businesses that do not directly emit greenhouse gases (GHGs), but whose products do. Industry groups and utility companies argued the Department lacked authority under the Washington Clean Air Act to promulgate the rule. The trial court ruled that the Department's authority was limited to entities that introduced contaminants into the air and did not include entities selling commodities, and thus that the rule was invalid. On appeal, the Department argued that because the rule was based on a type of emission—GHGs—it could cover businesses that did not directly emit GHGs, but whose products eventually did. The appellate court found that the Act's definition of "emission standard" plainly limited their applicability to actual emitters, and thus that the Department's attempt to expand the scope of the standards exceeded its authority under the Act. It therefore invalidated the rule to the extent it regulated nonemitters via an emission standard, but upheld the authorized portions of the rule that apply to actual emitters.