Air agency drops regional fuel standard proposal

Air agency drops regional fuel standard proposal
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has dropped its proposal for a regional low carbon fuel standard. Photo: freepik.com

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) is no longer considering a regional low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) after a third legislative effort to impose a statewide version failed this session following large protests by trucking industry members.

The brief statement on the agency’s website says that “if relevant state legislation is enacted or there is a clarification of the Washington State Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Clean Air Rule, the Agency will evaluate the implications of those developments on a draft rule.” Previously, PSCAA Executive Director Craig Kenworthy had said the agency would “put our pencils down” if a statewide LCFS was approved.

If enacted this session, HB 1110 would have set up an LCFS program through the state Department of Ecology with progressively stricter standards on carbon intensity permitted in fuel. California and Oregon both have LCFS policies in varying stages of implementation.

Under an LCFS, entities that produce or provide fuel above the standard generate deficits, while entities such as clean or biofuel producers would generate credits. However, HB 1110 failed to clear the Senate after passing in the House. The proposal was met with strong protest from truckers testifying at a March 2 public hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee. from the four counties within the agency’s jurisdiction, only in Pierce County did the LCFS receive less than 90 percent support.

However, a major issue raised by critics about PSCAA’s proposal was its estimated costs. Although a staff presentation at the agency’s Feb. 27 Joint Board of Directors and Advisory Council Meeting sought to downplay the impact on fuel, the agency’s analysis estimated an LCFS could raise gas prices in the region as much as $.57 per gallon by 2030. Others noted that the analysis includes optimistic assumptions about future electric vehicle ownership.

“I guess the economic downturn made those costs more evident, but it (LCFS) never made sense in the first place,” Washington Policy Center Environmental Director Todd Myers said. “It was a foolish and expensive strategy to start with. Waste is never defensible, but you can ignore it when you have lots of money. But then when you run out of money, you really noticed how much has been wasted. I think that is the lesson of the low carbon fuel standard.”

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