State House Passes Low Carbon Fuel Standards

The first vigorous debate of the 2020 session took place Wednesday on the House floor when majority Democrats brought Governor Jay Inslee’s low carbon fuel standard bill for a vote. There were two lengthy rounds of debate – one in the early afternoon and another in the evening. We have reports from both sides of that debate.

According to Dan Frizzell from House Democratic Caucus, Washington took a big step toward becoming the latest state to enact low-carbon fuel standards to combat climate change:

Washington House Republicans’ John Sattgast reports House Republicans warned it would increase gas prices, but have little effect on the state’s environment.

Transcripts of the reports:

FRIZZELL: House Bill eleven-ten would establish a Clean Fuels Program, with 2028 and 2035 deadlines for reaching 10 and 20 percent reductions in carbons emitted by transportation fuels, the state’s biggest source of greenhouse gas. Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, the West Seattle Democrat who sponsored the bill, tamped down fears that the bill could cause gas prices to skyrocket. He pointed out that after Oregon OK’d a similar plan, pump prices went up less than a penny a gallon.  He also cited the ready availability of the cleaner fuels.

FITZGIBBON: “We produce a lot of clean fuels in Washington, but it all goes to Oregon, to California, and to British Columbia.  So there are great markets for the renewable diesel produced at the BP refinery in Ferndale, or the biodiesel produced at the REG refinery in Hoquiam, or the renewable natural gas produced at the landfill in Klickitat County. All these clean fuels could be burned here in Washington and could help improve our air quality and reduce our emissions, too.”

FRIZZELL: After Wednesday’s approval in the House, the Low Carbon Fuel Standards bill heads for the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee will consider it for further action. The 2020 legislative session, now in its third week, adjourns for the year on March 12.  In Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.

SATTGAST: House Bill 1110 would implement a California-style low carbon fuel standard – meaning it would mandate a change in the makeup of motor fuel sold in Washington state. It’s a priority of Democrat Governor Jay Inslee, but legislative Republicans say it would be disastrous.

WALSH: “This is a bad bill. . .”

SATTGAST: Aberdeen Republican Representative Jim Walsh…

WALSH: “It promotes bad policy. It adds to the cost of living to the people who could afford such costs least.”

SATTGAST: Representative Ed Orcutt says Washington already has the third highest state gas tax and some of the highest gas prices in the nation. . .

ORCUTT: “This bill could raise that by another 57 to 63 cents a gallon. We could be a dollar-20 higher than the national average.”

SATTGAST: Spokane Representative Jenny Graham says the low carbon fuel standard could be the last straw for the struggling trucking industry…

GRAHAM: “Now the fuel that they rely on – that there’s not other options – is going to literally put them out of business.”

SATTGAST: Selah Republican Representative Jeremie Dufault warned the measure could especially hurt low-income folks, such as farm workers in the Yakima Valley.

DUFAULT:  “It will increase the cost of gasoline through government action. And that is a bad thing. That’s why the businesses that use a lot of gasoline are opposed to it. That’s why the farm workers are opposed to it. And that’s why poor people across the state will suffer. And we need to stop it.”

SATTGAST: Republicans were also quick to point out the new fuel standard would do little to affect climate change. Better forest management to reduce wildfire carbon emissions would be more effective, they said. This is Kennewick Representative Brad Klippert…

KLIPPERT:  “Washington state’s carbon emissions represent one-third of one percent of all the carbon produced in the world. And we’re going to harm economically so much the citizens of Washington state for one-third of one percent?”

SATTGAST: Representative Robert Sutherland…

SUTHERLAND:  “Yes, carbon dioxide levels will decrease. But it will have zero effect on our climate.”

SATTGAST: Despite a combined three hours of debate on the House floor, the measure passed 52-44, with only five Democrats voting no. The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration. John Sattgast, Olympia