March was a busy month for the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) Implementation Group and the other members of the Air Quality team who are working to bring this historic legislation to life.
As the 2022 legislative session came to a close in mid-March, two key bills were passed that have important impacts on ours efforts to build Washington’s new cap-and-invest program. Below, we cover these legislative developments, as well as some exciting updates about other crucial pieces of the CCA that go beyond cap-and-invest.
Ironing out the details
One of the most crucial pieces of legislation passed during the 2022 session was E2SSB 5842, concerning various state laws that address climate change. Among this bill’s provisions were three crucial amendments to the original CCA language that make it possible for us to develop and implement the programs it establishes.
Most critically, the bill modifies "pre-emption language" in the CCA to resolve a conflict with existing state and federal laws. While the CCA is a powerful tool for reducing the impacts of climate change, it’s but one piece of a much larger state and federal effort. The changes included in this bill will allow us to maintain our federally-delegated authority under the Clean Air Act and will protect our ability to implement important existing climate laws.
This bill also included some technical changes that, while seemingly small, will better enable us to create and maintain a functional, transparent emissions allowance marketplace. Under the bill, sensitive market information is now exempt from public disclosure. Other changes removed unintended barriers to potential linkage of Washington’s program with those in other jurisdictions, such as California and Quebec.
Funding the future
Also sent to Governor Jay Inslee for signature in March was ESSB 5974, a transportation budget bill that had one critical provision relating to the CCA. Under the original law as passed in 2021, the CCA required Ecology to draft and submit Agency Request Legislation outlining a proposed compliance pathway for "emissions-intensive, trade-exposed" entities (EITEs) from 2035 to 2050.
The compliance pathway from the program’s inception in 2023 through 2034 is established in state law. However, the CCA required that the Legislature consider and pass legislation establishing this longer-term compliance pathway no later than April 2023. Crucially, the law also stipulated that funds generated by CCA allowance auctions be locked unless this deadline was met — meaning that the important climate, air quality, and environmental justice programs to be funded by the CCA would be on hold.
We drafted and proposed such legislation during the 2022 session, fulfilling our statutory obligation. While this legislation did not pass, ESSB 5974 removed the provision tying the availability of CCA funds to the passage of EITE legislation. Since the compliance pathway for EITEs is already established through 2034 under the CCA, we can now use the new emissions data from the cap-and-invest program to design the long-term compliance pathway in the coming years.
A firm foundation
After signing with the Western Climate Initiative, Inc. (WCI) in December, the CCA Implementation Group has been hard at work on the onboarding process. As we mentioned in our last blog, WCI provides the auction platform for the cap-and-invest programs in California, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. While Washington’s program will not initially be linked with any of these other jurisdictions, having our auctions hosted on the same platform will make any future linkage a much simpler undertaking.
WCI, Inc.’s Board of Directors met in March and, with the Washington agreement in place, our program now has equal representation on the board. Both Ecology’s director, Laura Watson, and the CCA Implementation Group Manager, Luke Martland, sit alongside representatives from the other three participating jurisdictions.
The CCA team also finished its Gap Analysis this month, which identified any places in which the existing WCI software needs to change in order to support Washington’s auction and allowance market rules. This means WCI can now begin the work of addressing these gaps to ensure our auction system functions smoothly.
Lightening the load
One of the hallmarks of the CCA is its commitment to environmental justice. Rather than letting this important work be an afterthought, the CCA ensures that direct action is taken to address air quality issues in the communities that suffer the most from air pollution in our state.
To do this, the CCA directs Ecology to identify a specific list of "overburdened communities" within Washington, which requires a robust, criteria-based public process. As part of that process, Ecology has been reaching out to hear first hand about lived experiences regarding air quality. In January, Ecology began hosting online listening sessions — first regionally and then based on requests from specific communities — focused on hearing directly from the public about the impact of air pollution on their health, communities, and environment, as well as their ideas for potential solutions to these issues. Most recently, we hosted virtual listening sessions for communities in the Yakima area.
To learn more, check out our page on the Improving Air Quality in Overburdened Communities initiative, check out our interactive Storymap survey, or sign up for email alerts to stay updated on this important work.
Upcoming opportunities for input
In addition to our outreach work on environmental justice, the Air Quality program is gearing up for another important public engagement opportunity.
In May, our rulemaking team will formally propose draft language for the Chapter 173-446 rule, which outlines the specific structure and parameters of the cap-and-invest program established by the CCA. Over the following months, we'll host formal public hearings and take public input on our proposed rule before finalization and adoption in the fall of 2022.
We want to make sure that all groups — stakeholders, Tribes, environmental justice groups, and the general public — have access to the educational resources they need to engage meaningfully in this rulemaking process. If you have questions about the CCA, would like to receive educational materials, or to request an informational presentation for your group, organization, or community, please contact Claire Boyte-White at Claire.Boyte-White@ecy.wa.gov.
Join our team!
Excited about the CCA and the impact it will have on our shared environment? Come work with us! The CCA Implementation Group is currently hiring for several positions working on all aspects of this exciting legislation. Check out our open positions or sign up for email alerts to see how you can become part of this important work.