Washington State House passes low-carbon fuels standard

Source: By Rachel La Corte, Associated Press • Posted: Friday, March 15, 2019

The measure passed on a 53-43 vote and now heads to the Senate for consideration. The bill is a key piece of the legislative agenda of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who jumped into the presidential race earlier this month with climate issues at the core of his campaign.

The bill directs the Department of Ecology to adopt a clean fuels program similar to ones in California and Oregon. It would require fuel producers to reduce the carbon emissions associated with their products 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. The program would begin by Jan. 1, 2021.

The carbon intensity of certain transportation fuel types would be calculated over their entire life cycle, from when they’re produced and transported to when they’re used in a vehicle. Fuels used by aircraft, vessels and railroad locomotives would be exempt.

State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, a Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure, said that while climate change is not an easy problem to solve, the bill will move the state toward cleaner fuels.

“We have the opportunity to clean our air,” he said during floor debate. “We have the opportunity to bend the curve on an existential threat to the future of our state and our world by passing this bill today.”

Many of those opposed argued that Washington residents would be harmed by increased fuel prices that could affect other costs, including food.

Republican state Rep. Skyler Rude of Walla Walla said that while he agrees with the goal of the bill and believes there’s a human element to climate change, he didn’t think a global issue could effectively be solved at a state level.

“I appreciate trying to lead by example, but at some point I’m concerned that we’re going to create a competitive disadvantage for our businesses in this state,” he said.

The Democratic-led chamber accepted several Republican floor amendments, including one that would have an independent consultant study the likely costs related to the program, and release those cost estimates publicly and report them to the House and Senate transportation committees each year.