Michael Foster says that the new draft Clean Air Rule rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Michael Foster says that the new draft Clean Air Rule "rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic." SB

On Wednesday, the Washington State Department of Ecology released an updated draft of the Clean Air Rule, a reintroduced plan to make the state's biggest polluters cut their greenhouse gas emissions that was retracted earlier this year. The new draft, as the Seattle Times noted yesterday, makes concessions to industry groups, and aims to cut carbon emissions from 70 Washington businesses by 1.7 percent annually.

But for one group of people deeply invested in the state's climate goals, the new draft rule doesn't go nearly far enough. The law firm representing grade-school students who sued the state over its failure to mitigate the consequences of climate change says that the new draft rule "completely [disregards] current science that would put Washington on a path toward climate stability."

When reached by phone, Michael Foster, the father of two of the eight students who won the case against the Department of Ecology, says the plaintiffs will try to go back to court "as soon as possible."

"Honestly, the new rule is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," Foster said. "The goal is absolutely in violation of any climate recovery pathway, and if we follow this plan for just a few years, we slam the door on an entire generation of kids who think that they're protected by this rule."

Earlier this year, the plaintiffs in the case against the Department of Ecology won an order from Judge Hollis Hill to put the state on a deadline to create a Clean Air Rule. Judge Hill also required that Ecology make a recommendation to the stymied state legislature to update its greenhouse gas reduction goals based on current science.

The current draft rule relies on the same greenhouse gas emissions goals set by the state legislature back in 2008. Ecology officials say that the new rule will help the state reach its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035. The plaintiffs who sued the state, however, say that any plan to actually wrestle emissions under control would require a 50 percent reduction by 2030, and a 6 to 8 percent reduction from the state's biggest emitters a year.

In a press release from the plaintiffs' law firm, climate scientist Dr. James Hansen said that 1.7 percent annual reductions "are not much different than business as usual."

Before the draft rule was reintroduced to the public, plaintiffs' lawyer Andrea Rodgers requested a meeting with Governor Jay Inslee's staff to ask that their input be incorporated into the new draft. The request for a meeting was never returned, Rodgers said.