Tribes ramp up pressure on WA over gas prices as climate laws’ effects take hold

LUMMI RESERVATION — Leaders from at least a dozen Washington tribes may soon meet with Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration to raise concerns and ask questions about the effects of the state’s new carbon-cap system on gas prices and tribal sovereignty.

Some say they’re taken aback by how much the system seems to be driving up gas prices, despite Inslee’s assurances that increases would be marginal. …

“Somehow [state officials] had pity on the farmers but they didn’t have pity on the Indians,” he said. “These fees shouldn’t apply to our sovereign territory.” …

In 2021, the Inslee administration told tribal leaders the carbon-cap system would have an insignificant effect on gas prices; that was misleading, considering where prices stand today, Cagey said.

A 2022 report commissioned by the Department of Ecology predicted the Clean Fuel Standard would cause gas prices to increase by less than 1 cent a gallon in 2023. The state predicted that the Climate Commitment Act would boost prices by 1-3%.

“This is going to have a minimal impact, if any. Pennies. We are talking about pennies,” Inslee said last year. “Potentially, not all of this would be passed off to the consumer and what they would [pass on] would be pennies.”

Washington’s average price at the pump is lower than a year ago, but the difference between Washington’s average price and the national average has grown about 40 cents a gallon, according to AAA data. …

… “it also seems to be the latest double standard against Indigenous peoples who are shouldering the burden of this tax, while the polluters and the emitters are apparently being exempt from it,” Indigenous rights attorney Gabe Galanda said.

Legalities aside, gas prices are a practical matter, [Henry Cagey, a longtime council member from Lummi Nation] said.

“We’ve got 5,000 registered Lummis and at least 5,000 cars out here that buy fuel,” the council member said. “We’ve got people making the minimum wage, paying extra [because of the carbon-cap system]. Our people can’t afford that. Our fishermen too. They’re paying extra now.”

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