A pair of companion bills intended to remedy the legal issues with Washington's Gov. Jay Inslee's Clean Air Rule for regulating greenhouse gas emissions have cleared their respective energy committees.

The state Supreme Court in a narrow 5-4 decision on Jan. 16 ruled that under the state's Clean Air Act, the Ecology Department can only regulate entities actually emitting GHG, but not producers or distributors of fossil fuels or other products that generate GHGs when used by consumers (CU No. 1936 [13]).

The bills—House Bill 2892 and Senate Bill 6628—modify the Clean Air Act to allow regulation of the indirect release of air contaminants, and authorize Ecology to regulate them.

Both were reported out of committee Feb. 6 on party-line votes, prior to the Feb. 7 cutoff for policy-related bills to clear committees. SB 6628 heads next to the Senate floor, where it could come up for debate and a vote, while HB 2893 includes an annual fee element, so will likely go to the Appropriations committee before landing on the House floor.

Also clearing the Senate energy committee on Feb. 6 was SB 6135, a bill addressing system reliability under the Clean Energy Transformation Act passed last year that decarbonizes Washington's grid by 2045.

The bill directs the state's Commerce Department and the Utilities and Transportation Commission to jointly convene stakeholders annually to discuss the adequacy of energy resources, and to address specific steps utilities can take to coordinate planning in light of changes to the northwest power system.

Companion bills aimed at giving the planned 1,200-MW Goldendale pumped storage project a leg up—HB 2819 and SB 6578—have also cleared committees.

The bipartisan bills, both proposed by Republicans, would designate Goldendale as a project of "statewide significance," which would qualify it for special treatment by the state and other governmental bodies because it bolsters the economy and brings other benefits.

The Goldendale project submitted its draft license application to FERC in December and expects to enter service in late 2029 (CU No. 1933 [12]).

Also clearing committee was an amended version of HB 2248, which would create the Community Solar Expansion Program to provide production incentive payments for new community solar projects.

The legislation grew from the efforts of the nonprofit Olympia Community Solar, which worked together with prime sponsors Reps. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia) and Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis).

The original incentive cap of $20 million was changed to $15 million allocated as $5 million per biennium between 2021 and 2026.

It also struck a provision for meter aggregation, which several utilities opposed as too burdensome and a reopening of a contentious issue that was finally resolved in the previous session.

That provision was meant to accommodate lower income participants in the program. In its place, the amended bill authorized a one-time "energy burden reduction incentive payment" covering up to $20,000 of administrative costs, plus benefits for low-income subscribers to the project.

The next cutoffs for the short session are Feb. 11, when all bills must have been read out of committees, and Feb. 19, when bills must be approved in the chamber of origin to continue.

News Editor - Clearing Up

Rick Adair has been with NewsData since 2003, and is news editor for Clearing Up and editor for Water Power West. Previously, he covered environmental and energy issues in the Lake Tahoe area. He has a doctorate in earth sciences.