LCFS debate continues in Senate committee

With the passage of E3SHB 1091 in the state House earlier this month, the debate over its proposed low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) continued during a March 10 public hearing in the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee. Much of the testimony from both industry and environmentalists centered on the effectiveness of the program and its potential to spike gas prices. …

One of the main points of contention between supporters and opponents is the effect an LCFS program will have on the cost of fuel. Proponents of an LCFS have sought to downplay its effects in California and Oregon, both of which have had their own LCFS program for several years.

… A 2019 analysis by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) provided an additional glimpse into the costs, concluding that a regional program could raise gas prices by up to $.57 per gallon by 2030.

A presentation by Committee staff member Bryon Moore offered another estimate on the price impact based on California data. Depending on the agency source, a 20 percent reduction in carbon fuel intensity levels could raise gas prices between $.23-$.46 cent per gallon. …

A 2018 report by California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) found that “most or all of the costs of purchasing credits and allowances are likely passed on to fuel consumers in the form of higher retail prices.” Critics of Fitzgibbon’s bill have also noted that its implementation timeline is twice as fast as California’s program.

Another argument made against the LCFS by critics such as Washington Trucking Association Vice President Sheri Call is that while the proposal would raise the cost of fuel, unlike a gas tax increase it does not provide additional revenue needed for transportation infrastructure. The state is also expected to spend $3 billion replacing fish culverts on highways managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation due to a U.S. court order. …

Those environmental benefits cited by proponents have also come under scrutiny. While Climate Solutions argues that “emissions from our transportation fuels like diesel and gasoline worsen our air quality and make us sick,” the PSCAA analysis did not examine the potential carbon reduction of a regional LCFS, and concluded it would not affect particulate matter levels in the air. …

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 Government Relations Josh Swanson told the committee that any fuel cost increases means less taxing capacity for future transportation funding. “We do not believe the time is right. We do not have the infrastructure to meet the demand (for clean fuel).”

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