In an effort to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, Washington state has begun phasing out coal, oil and gas extraction in a new state policy, according to an environmental group.
The new state regulation requires companies to reduce their use of coal, petroleum, natural gas and other fossil fuels.
It also requires companies using the carbon-intensive method of fracking to pay for their carbon offsets, the nonprofit Pacific Northwest Environmental Law Center said.
In the process, it also sets the stage for the development of a new oil and natural gas boom, Pacific Northwest Energy Policy Center director Mark Jacobsen said.
The oil and liquefied natural gas industry has been booming in recent years, thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the practice of pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to release gas, oil or natural gas.
“This new policy is likely to significantly impact oil and other energy-related production in Washington state, and it’s a step in the right direction,” Jacobsen, a senior fellow at the nonprofit, said in a statement.
“We know the industry can be competitive in Washington and it is time to give Washington a shot at becoming a global leader in energy efficiency.”
The policy change has been welcomed by the energy sector, but critics say the new rules will harm jobs and raise costs.
The industry has long fought the state’s new carbon standards, arguing they will hurt the economy.
They’ve even gone so far as to sue the state to block the rules.
The Pacific Northwest Environment Law Center estimates that, by 2020, the industry will have cut its carbon emissions by more than 100 million tons and added $4.3 billion to the state economy.
It’s a significant amount of carbon dioxide, the group said, but it would have been even more if not for the state adopting the new standards.
At the same time, the policy change could put the entire energy sector at a competitive disadvantage, said Daniel Ostrovsky, director of the Pacific Northwest Climate Change Project at the University of Washington.
“It’s not just about the industry that’s losing out; it’s about the entire industry, as well,” he said.
The new carbon rules are also likely to lead to more emissions in the future, Ostrovky said.
“The industry has to pay more to offset the greenhouse gases that they’re burning, and this will have an effect on future emissions.”
According to the policy center, Washington State currently uses 2.6 million tons of carbon-neutral energy, or roughly one-third of the state total emissions.
State officials say the carbon rules will help keep the state from contributing to the global climate change crisis, as carbon is used in power plants, cars, appliances and buildings.
They also say the policy will help make the state more energy-efficient, as the state will pay for its carbon offsets.
Environmentalists and business leaders in the state say the rules are necessary to cut pollution from the energy industry.
“The policy’s intended to address the climate crisis, but in order to do so, we need to make real, practical, and long-term investments in the environment, including in clean energy,” said Dan McArthur, vice president of communications for the Puget Sound Alliance, the state-based advocacy group.