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Northwest gas utilities sue to challenge Wash. Clean Air Rule

Four natural gas utilities in the Pacific Northwest arechallenging a Washington regulator's pollution-reduction policy that thecompanies claim would require them to buy costly emissions credits and increasereliance on power generated outside the state.

Avista Corp.,Cascade Natural Gas Corp.,Northwest Natural Gas Co.d/b/a NW Natural and Puget SoundEnergy Inc. said in a statement Sept. 27 that they filed a jointaction in U.S. District Court challenging the Washington State Department ofEcology's Clean Air Rule, known as CAR. The utilities also said they intend tofile an action in Thurston County Superior Court.

The companies claim CAR will force electricity users toswitch from in-state gas-fired power plants to coal-burning plants inneighboring jurisdictions and discourage people from using the fuel for homeheating. The rule covers natural gas distributors and subjects them toemissions reductions based on the indirect emissions of their customers,according to the statement.

"The CAR rulemaking process will have the unintendedconsequence of increasing carbon emissions while penalizing customers for usingclean efficient natural gas," the report said. "CAR suffers severalcritical flaws with respect to electric and natural gas utilities that willresult in adverse environmental impacts."

The utilities argued that they provided feedback toregulators while the rule was being considered but said their ideas were notincorporated on its completion. They are asking the courts to rule that CAR isinvalid.