State Relations

November 2, 2021

A guide to rulemaking: WA Dept. of Ecology developing rules on climate and energy laws

In 2021, the state legislature passed several environmental policies that create new markets and regulations affecting public organizations, private companies, industries, and residents across Washington state. In anticipation of these laws going into effect, the Department of Ecology and other state agencies are conducting rulemaking processes to determine how the laws will be implemented.

Rulemaking is utilized by state agencies to help clarify, apply, or enforce a state law. The rulemaking process is often lengthy due to the development, notice, and public feedback requirements. At the start of the rulemaking process, a state agency must post a notice of intent to change, adopt, or repeal a rule and draft and release proposed rule language. The public then has the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed language, which the state agency reviews and considers. If substantial changes are made to a proposed rule based on public feedback, the agency must once again post a notice and provide additional opportunity for public input. Agencies must also complete a small business economic impact statement if the proposed rule imposes more than minor costs on business or industry or as requested by the Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee. When the process is complete, the rule is adopted and becomes known as a Washington Administrative Code (WAC) and is regulated and enforced like a law passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.

UW faculty and staff are welcome to participate in any rulemaking process by providing public comment. Working with state agencies to implement rules is not considered lobbying for public employees. In fact, the expertise of University of Washington faculty and staff may help the state implement rules more efficiently, equitably, and effectively.

Rulemaking processes are underway for the Climate Commitment Act (cap-and-invest program), Clean Fuel Standard, Healthy Environment for All Act (the HEAL Act advances environmental justice in state agencies) and updates to the Clean Air Act (to fold in Hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs). Click here to read more about new legislation and corresponding public comment periods.