LCFS proposal advances from House

LCFS proposal advances from House
The state House voted 53-43 in favor of SSHB 1110 that would create a low carbon fuel standard. Photo: freepik.com

After a lengthy debate on Mar. 12 that included over half a dozen amendments added to the bill, state House lawmakers voted 53-43 in favor of SSHB 1110 creating a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) in Washington state. The bill is one of several introduced as part of Governor Jay Inslee’s “green plan” he unveiled last year to reduce Washington’s greenhouse gases that compose roughly .02 percent of total global emissions.

While supporters argue the program will reduce carbon emissions generated by the transportation sector and create new clean energy jobs, critics in the House emphasized the impact to fuel prices as seen in states such as California that have partially implemented an LCFS program.

If approved by the Senate as written, SSHB 1110 sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) tasks the state Department of Ecology to create a LCFS program to bring the carbon intensity in fuels 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028, and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. The program would include a credit system in which entities that provide fuels with carbon intensities above the standard would run deficits and must purchase credits from entities that offer “clean” biofuels. Certain types of fuel such as aviation fuel would be exempt.

Fitzgibbon told colleagues that “we have an opportunity to move toward cleaner fuels” produced by entities such as the Renewable Energy Group at its Hoquiam plant.

“We have the opportunity to clean our air,” he added.

Prior to the House vote, legislators approved nine amendments. Among those revisions are the following changes:

  • Exempts dyed special fuels used for agricultural purpose from LCFS program requirements until 2028, but eligible to earn credits;
  • Requires electricity produced by hydroelectric dams to be credit under the program if used as a transportation fuel;
  • Makes fuels generated from palm oil ineligible for the credit program;
  • Requires Ecology consider land use changes when determining carbon intensity of sugar cane fuel; and
  • Requires Ecology hire an independent consultant to perform an annual estimate of the costs or savings per gallon of gasoline attributable to the clean fuel program; that report would be submitted to both Transportation Committees.

However, Republican lawmakers were unsuccessful in adding other amendments, such as one introduced by Rep. Drew Stokesbary (R-31) that would have required the state Office of Financial Management (OFM) to analyze the financial impact of the LCFS program on state agencies due to increased fuel prices at the beginning of each biennium before further carbon intensity reductions could occur. Another rejected amendment sponsored by Assistant Minority Floor Leader Morgan Irwin (R-31)would have required voter approval for the program to move forward.

“There is no reason the people should not be able to decide if they want to pay an increase in gas,” Minority Floor Leader Jacquelin Maycumber (R-7) told colleagues.

Although only partially implemented, California’s LCFS program has already raised the price of gasoline by $.16 per gallon and could raise it $.46 by 2030. In contrast, the fuel price increase by Oregon’s LCFS program has been negligible.

However, Washington Policy Center Environmental Director Todd Myers told Lens that’s because Oregon’s program has just started. “It won’t be true over time.”

Another amendment sponsored by Rep. Brandon Vick (R-17) concerned a separate contention some opponents have. The 2015 Connecting Washington package contains a provision regarded as an implicit prohibition on an LCFS program prior to 2023. That provision in state law would be altered under SSHB 1110 and the rejected amendment would have restored it.

While business groups such as the Association of Washington Business (AWB) say the LCFS proposal has lawmakers going back on their word, Rep. Jake Fey (D-27) argued during the Mar. 12 House floor discussion that as one of the negotiators for the transportation package he interpreted it as a restriction on the governor’s ability to adopt the program via executive order as was done with the clean air rule.

Myers says the discussion on environment policy should be on reducing emissions overall and not limited to one sector.  “If we use gasoline from now until 2100, but we have more hybrids, more electric vehicles, more telecommuting, then it doesn’t matter if we reduce the carbon intensity (in fuels) at all. We’re going to reduce emissions. The effective way to reduce C02 emissions is to do everything.”

In that case, there are more affordable ways to reduce emissions, he adds. That was also the conclusion of the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office, which found the state’s LCFS was 10 times costlier than its cap-and-trade program.

SSSHB 1110 has not yet been referred to a Senate committee.

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