After three attempts to get a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) passed in the state legislature failed, the fourth try via E3SHB 1091 is on the verge of succeeding after the Senate Ways and Means Committee voted to advance it on April 1. However, Chair Christine Rolfes (D-23) directed the bill to the Rules Committee, bypassing the Transportation Committee where previously prior such bills had floundered.
The move was criticized by Ways and Means Committee member Sen. Lynda Wilson (R-17), who cited remarks made by Transportation Committee Chair Steve Hobbs (D-44) on the bill when it was advanced out of the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee on March 16 about how the bill would eventually go to his committee.
Rolfes replied that the bill would go to the Rules Committee due to “time constraints” and “we were able to make changes…that were done in consultation with the Transportation Committee chair.”
Those changes incorporated through a striking amendment introduced by Sen. Mark Mullet (D-5) primarily concern the implementation timeline, which in the original bill was twice that of California’s LCFS program.
The changes include:
- Replacing a 2028 compliance standard with rulemaking authority for the state Department of Ecology to set the schedule, but with restrictions on the carbon intensity reduction increase;
- Requiring the passage of a new transportation package that spends more than $500 million per biennium before the LCFS program can be implemented;
- Setting the maximum price for credits to $200, with adjustments after 2028 due to inflation; and
- Requiring Ecology to consider global emission reductions when reviewing a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
Another amendment by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-24) requires Ecology to study the state feedstock production supply; if by 2026 that supply is less than 25 percent needed for program compliance, the state agency must adopt a prior, lower standard for carbon intensity levels in fuel.
Speaking on his amendment, Mullet said the changes are intended to avoid spikes in fuel prices. “The thought process is that if there’s not a big impact on price, we’ll know that. If there is a big impact on price at the pump that gives the legislature a chance to decide.”
A 2019 analysis by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) found that its own proposed LCFS could have raised gas prices in the region by $.57 per gallon by 2030. That same analysis also concluded that a regional LCFS would have no effect on particulate matter in the air or boost biofuel production in the state.
He added that the amendment also ties the legislation more effectively with a separate cap-and-trade bill awaiting a Senate floor vote. “We’re trying to make sure they’re coordinating between each other. The end goal was to try and really make an attempt at this to keep the policy intact but…be very careful about the impact to the pump.”
Ways and Means Committee member Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) is chair of the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology and sponsor of the cap-and-trade bill. At the April committee meeting he described the LCFS proposal as a “work in progress. This is an important policy toward decarbonizing. It does have impacts on the implications on how we move forward as a state and as a region.”
An unsuccessful amendment sponsored by Wilson would have exempted trucking fuel from the program due to concerns about added fuel prices affecting the cost of transported goods.
E3SHB 1091 has been referred to the Rules Committee.