New low carbon fuel standard proposed

    New low carbon fuel standard proposed
    HB110 would create a carbon fuel standard similar to ones already implemented in states such as California and Oregon. Created by Welcomia - Freepik.com

    As with last year, efforts to reduce Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions is prompting several bills as part of Governor Jay Inslee’s “green energy” proposal – and the topic took up much of his State of the State speech. One of those proposals seeks to reduce carbon intensity in transportation fuels through a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), though trucking industry and business group leaders say the standard would increase gas prices significantly in a state that already has the second-highest gas tax.

    Sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-36), House Bill 1110 (HB1110) seeks to reduce fuel carbon intensity by 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. The bill is a modified version of a similar proposal made last year, but failed to clear the House floor.

    During the Jan. 15 public hearing, Fitzgibbon noted that the transportation sector contributes the most greenhouse gases in the state. “This is the area where there’s the greatest urgency that we reduce those impacts.”

    If passed as written, the bill would direct the Department of Ecology to create a rule implementing a Clean Fuel Program in harmony with other states such as California and Oregon who have already adopted such standards. It would also include certain exemptions, such as fuel that is exported or not used in the state, aircraft and vessel fuels and any fuel types that Ecology wishes to exempt as part of its rulemaking. Ecology would have to implement the rule starting January 2021. By 2027, the state agency is to analyze the impacts of the initial five-years of the program and submit a report to the legislature on the results.

    The bill garnered support from local government officials such as King County Executive Dow Constantine and biodiesel industry members. Constantine told the panel that “King County is ready to work with suppliers to foster a clean fuel economy that keeps money from Washington fuel consumers in Washington State.”

    However, the proposal is opposed by the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce. Government Affairs Director Mike Ennis told panel members that it would renege on a provision in the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package indirectly prohibiting a LCFS. The $16 billion package added $.12 to the state gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects.

    However, that package would not have had the votes needed to pass if the provision against an LCFS not been included, Ennis argued. “A deal’s a deal. We want to honor the commitments that were made in the revenue package.”

    He added that “raising fuel prices places incredible pressures on our economy, increasing the costs of virtually all consumer goods.”

    Speaking in opposition to the bill, Western States Petroleum Association Northwest Legislative Affairs and Climate Policy Director Jessica Spiegel told state lawmakers that LCFSs “are costly to consumer, not cost effective for emission reductions and not workable.” The non-profit trade association represents petroleum companies in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

    Spiegel also argued that California’s eight-year LCFS program has added roughly $.13 cents to every gallon of fuel.  “No reason to expect it to be less in Washington.”

    Also critical of the legislation was Sheri Call, president of the Washington Trucking Associations. She told panel members that their members already support the Port of Seattle’s clean truck program. However, trucking still relies on fossil fuels and is still years away from electric or hybrid replacements, she said.  “Rather than penalize, agree to work with trucking stakeholders to pursue innovative power technologies,” she said.

    No further action is planned for HB1110 at this time.

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