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Proposal for cleaner fuel in Washington could raise gas prices

Republican critics cited a 2019 study by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, which found a clean fuel standard could raise gasoline prices 57-cents a gallon.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A proposal for a new clean fuel standard in Washington state, which could raise gas prices, passed off the floor of the state's House Saturday and now heads to the Senate.

Supporters of House Bill 1091 said it would improve air quality in the state, reduce cases of asthma, and lower wildfire risks by reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel. 

Every Republican in the House, however, voted against the proposal, mainly over concerns of the impact it could have on business owners and gas prices.

"I think we can do better," said Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, during the floor debate. Barkis said the bill, which would require the production of cleaner burning fuel, could raise gas prices more than 50-cents a gallon.

Barkis, and other Republican critics, cited a 2019 study conducted by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, which found clean fuel standards, like those implemented in Oregon and California, could increase prices at the pump 57-cents per gallon for gasoline, and 63-cents more per gallon for diesel.

Those figures were for the worst case scenario, according to Craig Kenworthy, the executive director for the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

"We do not think the worst case is going to happen," said Kenworthy, who cited advances in industry technology since the 2019 study. Kenworthy said his agency supports the clean fuel standard bill.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, said a similar proposal in Oregon only caused a couple of cent increases in gasoline and diesel there.

"If we care about what kind of world we're going to leave for our children, and our children, is it worth it to pay two cents on a gallon of gasoline or a gallon of diesel?," said Fitzgibbon.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Senate Floor Majority Leader, Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, said the Senate is looking at ways to combine proposed gas tax increases to pay for road projects with the clean fuel standard bill.

"That is, I think what we're all working towards, where we're investing and greening up our transportation sector at the same time."