Washington Farm Bureau Opposes Governor’s Proposed Carbon Cap Rule

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WFB strongly opposes the governor’s new proposal for a Department of Ecology rule to cap carbon. WFB believes such regulation would be unlawful (ultra vires) as it ventures beyond the authority given to the DOE by the state legislature.

The governor’s deeply flawed carbon cap and tax legislation (HB 1314) failed to pass even the House of Representatives this past legislative session because it would have caused serious economic disruption and created unintended negative consequences. The proposed regulations would create similar problems. For instance, the rule would likely trigger significant new compliance costs that would hit both the consumer’s pocket book and the farmer’s bottom line.

Regulatory costs will be passed on to Washington consumers through higher grocery bills due to increased fuel, transportation and processing costs in the food supply chain. Higher fuel, fertilizer, transportation and processing costs would also be passed on to Washington farmers and ranchers, but as commodity price takers most producers have no way to pass the new regulatory costs on to consumers. So it cuts into their profits, or makes their losses worse. The money lost to carbon regulation makes it harder for producers to make investments in new equipment, precision farming technologies, or renewable fuels that cut carbon, or in energy conservation and carbon sequestration practices that reduce the producer’s net carbon footprint and support his or her bottom line. When farmers and ranchers cannot make a reasonable profit, working farmlands get converted to subdivisions and developments. Open agricultural spaces go away. Environmental outcomes get worse. And local food security suffers as unregulated food gets imported from competing nations.

These new carbon regulation costs could also push agricultural processors, packers and manufacturers (and the rural jobs they provide) to competing states, where there are no carbon regulations. The carbon footprint of businesses that leave Washington will likely be greater than the carbon footprint of those businesses when they were served by carbon-free hydropower here in the state. Perverse outcomes like that should be avoided, which is just what the legislature did this session by tabling the governor’s faulty cap and tax legislation.

In a representative democracy like ours, only the legislative branch (and not the executive branch) has the appropriate constitutional authority to change state law. WFB suggests a more sensible approach. See SB 5735 for example. That legislation, which also did not pass, at least honestly recognized Washington’s long-standing investment in carbon-free hydropower, as well as investments in carbon reduction technologies (like precision farming), water and energy conservation, and carbon sequestration practices that many Washington producers already implement. These positive efforts, which reduce carbon while also reducing energy costs, creating jobs, and helping the farmer’s bottom line, should be incentivized and promoted, not punished.