The state House has voted 52-44 in favor of a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) program via HB 1110; introduced last year and at that time approved by the chamber 53-43, the legislation reached the Senate Transportation Committee before it was referred back to the House. The vote this session was preceded by hours-long impassioned pleas by legislators on the House floor speaking in opposition to the bill over concerns that the expected increase to gas prices will harm Washington’s economy.
“It absolutely destroys our competitiveness,” Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-20) told colleagues.
The vote came more than a week after HB 1110’s companion bill SB 5412 received a public hearing in the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee; no further action has been taken on the Senate version.
If passed, HB 1110 would have the state Department of Ecology set up an LCFS program with the goal of reducing carbon intensity in fuels not exempted in the bill. Entities that provide fuel with carbon intensity above the standard generate deficits, while entities offering fuel below the standard generate credits that can be purchased to make up deficits.
Sponsor Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-35) told colleagues on the House floor: “this bill is a big step forward. This is a big bill, and this is a hard bill for us to tackle – the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in our state.”
If approved by the Senate, Washington would join California and Oregon, which have already implemented LCFS programs. California’s LCFS program has raised gas prices by at least $.16 per gallon and continues to generate deficits, while Oregon’s program has raised gas prices by roughly $.024 per gallon, though it is only 15 percent implemented.
While proponents such as Fitzgibbon argued that the program will help reduce the state transportation sector’s GHG emissions, other lawmakers such as Rep. Jim Walsh (R-19) reiterated concerns raised by trucking and agricultural industry members that the increased gas prices will effect everyday consumer goods.
An analysis by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency of its proposed regional LCFS program found that it could raise gas prices by $.57 per gallon; some have argued the price could be even higher due to what they consider to be optimistic assumptions made in the analysis.
“This is a bill that’s going to cost the people of the state of Washington dearly,” Walsh said. “The people of the state have spoken time and time again. They’re tired of paying more in transportation costs and not seeing good effects.”
“I left California 13 years ago to get away from this type of regulation, to get away from this type of taxation,” Rep. Bill Jenkin (R-16) said. “It makes me shiver to think that we’re doing the same thing to the citizens of our great state.”
Rep. Chris Corry (R-14) said a more effective way to reduce GHG emissions is through wildfire prevention measures and active forest management. During the 2015 season more than one million acres burned, emitting 24 million metric tons of carbon – more than four times the carbon emitted that same year by the Centralia coal plant, the state’s largest industry emitter.
“We have opportunities to put jobs in those communities, and yet here we are with a bill in front of us that is going to cost them jobs,” Orcutt said.
HB 1110 has not yet been referred to a Senate committee.