OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington state’s first auction of greenhouse-gas pollution allowances has generated an estimated $300 million businesses, people and lawmakers see the cost of emitting greenhouse gases.
On Tuesday the Department of Ecology announced it had sold all of its almost 6.2 million allowances, each representing one metric ton of greenhouse-gas emissions.
The price was $48.50 per ton. The revenue raised will be confirmed in a report later this month after the financial transactions are completed, officials said.
The Washington auction price settled higher than prices in similar programs in California and Quebec.
Those supporting Washington’s carbon pricing program and its cap on emissions cheered the auction results.
"It demonstrates the strength of the cap in Washington state," said Michael Mann, executive director of Clean and Prosperous Washington, a climate policy group. "We also shouldn’t read too much into the first auction."
The program is the highlight of the state’s 2021 Climate Commitment Act. It sets a statewide cap on greenhouse-gas emissions that gradually decreases, with a goal of decarbonization by 2050. It requires polluters to decrease emissions steadily or buy allowances for pollution.
Polluting businesses can purchase the credits, or allowances, at quarterly auctions. Money raised from the auction goes to the Legislature, which intends to spend it on climate mitigation programs and clean energy projects.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president and CEO of the Western States Petroleum Association, told the newspaper in a statement the auction price was "unnecessarily expensive" and would harm consumers and the economy.
"While the state is focused on the funds raised, today is not a day to celebrate and should be a warning for the viability of the program moving forward," Reheis-Boyd said.