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Washington's Paper Industry Argues Governor's New CO2 Emission Law Hurts Business

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According to a recent report by The Daily News, Longview, Wash., USA, on Wednesday of this past week, the Washington Department of Ecology gave its first glimpse into what the state’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution could look like. And to what the state identifies as "major local emitters," such as KapStone and Weyerhaeuser, they’re not looking good.

Governor Jay Inslee’s rule would hurt jobs, raise prices, and increase global carbon emissions by pushing companies out of Washington to states and countries with more lenient air quality standards, said Chris McCabe, executive director of the Northwest Pulp & Paper Association, which includes KapStone and Weyerhaeuser.

"If we have a whole bunch of regulatory costs, those aren’t ultimately passed on to the consumer," McCabe said. "What’s in black and white in the rule does not give us a lot of comfort. We really hope the governor’s office and the ecology department are interested in working with us to make sure we stay competitive in the state."

State ecology officials said penalties for failing to comply with the rules could be severe. But the department says action is needed to address global climate change and instability, which scientists have linked to carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activity.

"Cities and counties across our state are taking action now to protect their transportation systems, water supplies, and homes from climate change damage," said Sarah Rees, Ecology’s climate change policy lead, in a prepared statement. "The science is telling us that what was projected years ago is happening today, and we need to act now to protect our environment and economy for future generations."

Starting in 2017, companies emitting 100,000 metric tpy of carbon would have to cut greenhouse emissions by 5% every three years. The goal is to have all big emitters reduce greenhouse gases consistently until 2035. Companies with commodities susceptible to volatile pricing changes such as KapStone and Weyerhaeuser won’t have to begin cutting carbon emissions until 2020. 

Millennium Bulk Terminals has proposed a giant coal terminal west of Longview, and Port of Longview officials said their facilities would not be affected by the new rule. McCabe said the pulp and paper industry should also be exempt, though the Ecology department said that’s unlikely.

"The impact on Kelso and Longview would be huge," he said. "Most of our mills are in rural parts of the state. These are the largest employers paying family wage jobs."

McCabe wants more recognition for what the region's paper industry has already done to reduce emissions. By NWPPA estimates, its members’ paper mills have reduced fossil fuel dependence by 20% over the past 11 years. In addition, he said, 83% of those mills’ energy comes from carbon-neutral biomass (such as bark and other wood waste).

"We’re part of the solution, not the problem," McCabe said.

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