A measure that would require fuel producers and importers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with gasoline and other transportation fuels passed the Washington House on Tuesday night.
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. 10 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 its entire life cycle, from when it's produced and transported to when it's used in a vehicle. Fuels used by aircraft, vessels and railroad locomotives would be exempt.
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 impact other costs, including food.
Republican 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, but said he didn't think a global issue could effectively 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 to release those cost estimates publicly and report them to the House and Senate transportation committees each year.
The bill would override so-called "poison pill" language that Republicans inserted into the $16.1 billion transportation package in 2015, when Republicans controlled the Senate. That provision said money for bike paths and transit would be transferred to other transportation projects if any state agency adopts a low carbon fuel standard before 2023. Inslee had opposed that language but eventually agreed to it and approved the transportation package.
A Republican amendment to keep that deal in place was rejected, as was an effort to put the issue on the ballot for voters to weigh in on the clean fuels program.
CORRECTION from Associated Press: In a story March 12 about the Washington state House passing a low-carbon fuels standard The Associated Press reported erroneously the day of the vote. It was Tuesday, not Friday.