4 Puget Sound counties may do what the state couldn’t: Pass a clean-fuel standard

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, which was created under the state’s Clean Air Act and encompasses King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties, is accepting comments on a draft version of a low-carbon fuel standard. The agency’s board could vote on the proposal as soon as February. …

The four-county plan is more aggressive than the clean-fuels standard legislators considered earlier this year. …

One concern that held up the proposal in the Senate was how it could affect the cost of fuel. A similar debate is likely to play out at the regional level in the coming months, as the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency solicits feedback on its proposal.

The Association of Washington Business already has expressed opposition to the regional plan, saying it would hurt the economy and could cause gas prices to rise as much as 57 cents per gallon by 2030.

“Raising the cost of fuel by 60 cents per gallon would increase supply chain costs significantly and lead to higher prices on virtually all consumer goods,” Mike Ennis of the AWB wrote in an email.

The 57-cent figure comes from a technical analysis of the Clean Air Agency’s proposal, which is currently posted on the agency’s website. The analysis states that, under a worst case scenario, gas prices could rise between 22 and 57 cents per gallon by 2030. …

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is taking comments on its proposal through Jan. 6. The agency’s board could then take up the clean-fuels standard at a meeting in late February, though the new rule wouldn’t take effect until 2021 at the earliest. …

… Sen. Steve Hobbs, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he and a few other Senate Democrats continue to think a low-carbon fuel standard is a bad idea — whether it is applied regionally or statewide.

Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, said his chief concern remains that the low-carbon fuel standard would raise fuel prices. Yet, unlike imposing a small carbon tax or a gas-tax increase, he said, a clean-fuel standard wouldn’t bring in new money for transportation infrastructure or for state-funded environmental improvements.

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