Inslee in hot fight over Clean Fuel Standard to curb global warming

Source: By Joel Connelly, Seattle Press • Posted: Monday, January 20, 2020

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants a Clean Fuel Standard for Washington, following enactment of similar standards in California, Oregon and British Columbia. Photo: Genna Martin, SEATTLEPI / GENNA MARTIN
Photo: Genna Martin, SEATTLEPI
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants a Clean Fuel Standard for Washington, following enactment of similar standards in California, Oregon and British Columbia.

Farm Bureau leaders, building trades unions, construction companies, a conservative¬†think tank, oil marketers and the Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association used a State Senate hearing Thursday to denounce Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal for a clean fuels standard, a key goal in Inslee’s state-of-the-state address.

The nation’s “greenest” governor is in for another fight.

California, Oregon and British Columbia already have working clean fuels standards in place. Washington is the only West Coast state to be without. And opponents want to keep it that way.

Enacting a fuel standard is “an extremely inefficient way to reduce carbon dioxide,” argued Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center. Converting to store and sell biofuels means big costs to gas stations, said Dave Ducharme, representing the Washington Oil Marketers Association. “My folks aren’t going to do it,” he added, predicting that station owners would sell their lands.

Inslee has proposed that the Dept. of Ecology set up a rule requiring a statewide Clean Fuel Program. It would limit greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10% below 2017 levels by 2028, and 20% below by 2035.

RELATED: Inslee to 2020 Legislature: Enact clean fuel standards

“The Clean Fuel Standard is the cleanest and best opportunity we have, bar none, to reduce carbon pollution from transporation in this state,” Inslee told a news conference last week at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

But the carbon economy has its dependents, defenders and advocates. Inslee forged a coalition of greens, labor unions, and progressive industries to support Initiative 1631, the 2018 ballot measure that would have imposed a carbon fee on emissions by the state’s major polluters. Big Oil spent more than $20 million, forged a coalition of its own, and sent the measure down to defeat

The clean fuel standard has supporters ranging from the American Lung Association to Alaska Airlines to the Port of Seattle. The port noted last week that Washington produces renewable fuels, which are being shipped out of state to places with fuel standards.

“At the port, we see a clear operational need for enactment of a Clean Fuel Standard in order to begin the process of creating a strong market for these clean energy alternatives in our state,” Seattle Port Commissioner Ryan Calkins said last week.

Others see it very differently. A total of 47 people signed up for the Senate hearing, some traveling from as far distant as Ritzville, Chelan and Prosser to voice their objections. Carmen Smith, co-owner of R.L. Smith Logging in Olympia, estimated that a fuel standard would add as much as $200,000 a year to the cost of operating the firm’s logging trucks.

“As an employer, we have to pass that cost on to the timber companies,” she said, or eat part of it.

Willy Wallace, speaking for the Laborers Union, said his union members “are not climate deniers” but are travelers who feel any bump in gas prices. “We have to travel further to find an affordable place to live,” he argued. Mark Martinez of the Building Trades added: “Our members rely on personal vehicles to get to work,” wherever that work might be.