Low carbon fuel standard stalls

Low carbon fuel standard stalls
ESSHB 1110, which would create a statewide low carbon fuel standard, has stalled after failing to clear the Senate Transportation Committee before the legislative cutoff date. Photo: freepik.com

ESSHB 1110, which would create a statewide low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), has hit a roadblock after it failed to clear an April 9 legislative cutoff date for bills moving through the Senate Transportation Committee, though theoretically it could be resurrected by state lawmakers if it is included in the operating budget.

The proposal aims to lower the carbon intensity found in fuels by to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. To accomplish that, the bill would impose through the state Department of Ecology a credit program for fuel entities, with numerous exemptions made for aviation and other types of fuel. If an entity provides fuel at a higher carbon intensity than the standard, it must purchase credits from an entity that produces fuel below that standard, i.e. a credit “surplus.”

ESSHB 1110 sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-35) initially passed in the state House on Mar. 12 by a 53-43 vote. The bill then advanced through the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee after a Mar. 21 vote and was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee. There, it was scheduled for an April 4 public hearing, but the meeting was later cancelled.

One cause appears to be apprehension over the expected increase to gas prices, an issue raised by Senate Transportation Chair Steve Hobbs (D-44) while it was in the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee. Hobbs has introduced a separate 10-year transportation package that includes a carbon tax as well as a $.06 gas tax increase to help pay for fish barrier removal projects.

For the April 4 public hearing, Hobbs proposed an amendment to ESSHB 1110 that would allow fuel entities to opt out of the credit program by paying a per-ton carbon fee. Half of that revenue would go the state’s motor vehicle fund, while the other half would go to the multimodal transportation account.

One of the groups opposed to the LCFS is the Washington Trucking Association. President Sheri Call told Lens that one of the reasons is that it raises the price of gas, but unlike the gas tax “it doesn’t provide benefit. If we adopt it, what happens two years down the road when we are trying to take a serious look at new revenue for the highways?”

She added that another way to reduce transportation carbon emissions is by reducing traffic congestion. “Our biggest contribution to pollution is stop-and-go traffic.”

Although the bill didn’t make the cutoff date, it’s fate is still uncertain because operating budget writers can still implement it by declaring it “necessary to implement the budget.”

“The budget, of course, is never done until they leave town,” Washington Policy Center Environmental Director Todd Myers said.

 

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