Washington state passes low-carbon Clean Fuel Standard — establishing a ‘Clean Fuel Coast’ from San Diego to the Klondike gateway

April 25, 2021 |

In Washington state, HB 1091. the Clean Fuel Standard has been passed by the legislature and now heads to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for signature; it is a significant win for the Governor’s renewables agenda and for the clean fuels movement.

From San Diego to the gateway to the Klondike, a clean curtain has descended across the gateway to the Pacific. Low-carbon fuel standards are now in place in California, Oregon, British Columbia and, shortly, in Washington state — creating a fortress of renewability, into which many of the Great cities of the Petroleum Age have taken themselves — Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, Portland, Vancouver. The stakeholder group Clean Fuel Washington has dubbed the region “The Clean Fuel Coast”. 

And, the whole of Canada is expected to complete implementation of its national low-carbon fuel standard over the next two years. 

“Today Washington state choose to become a global climate leader by reducing fossil transportation fuels, which are the number one cause of climate pollution in our state,” said Tim Zenk, organizer of Clean Fuel Washington. “The citizens of Washington, its legislature and Governor today courageously fought the forces of Big Oil and made history by passing a Clean Fuel Standard that will reduce emissions that are causing climate change.”

It was a flurry of last minute activity. Last Tuesday, the House refused to concur in Senate amendments to the original House bill. A conference committee was appointed on Friday. The committee report arrived on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, conference’s compromise bill passed 26-23 in the state Senate and 54-43 in the state house.

Next steps begin now

“Our future turned bright and clear today in Washington, we are the tipping point for the change that is coming to this nation and world to make fossil fuels extinct and save our planet,” continued Zenk. “But our work is not over. We can celebrate tonight; but let’s get right back to work on Monday working to implement the Clean Fuels standard, creating jobs and building clean energy production with renewable fuel refineries across the state.”

What’s in the Bill?

Here it is, ready to view.

Kudos handed out to the leaders

Senate and the House leaders — who listened to voters across the state and voted to require oil companies to reduce the emissions from their products that harm human health and contribute to climate change — include:

These include: Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) and Senator Reuven Carlyle, for their tirelessly efforts to nourish a “climate action coalition” among legislators to build a diverse coalition for clean fuels and cap and trade that resulted in today’s historic climate action.

Other Senate leaders include: Senator Rebecca Saldaña (D-37), Senator Liz Lovelett (D-40), and Senator Derek Stanford (D-1). From the House of Representatives: Speaker Laurie Jinkins (D-27), Representative Pat Sullivan (D-47), Representative Valdana Slatter (D-48), Representative Davina Duerr (D-1), and Representative Amy Walen (D-48).

You’ve come a long ways baby

The road to today’s legislative win has been a long and winding one.

In 2013, we reported on embryonic efforts, noting in an effort to streamline legislative processes, the House Environment Committee will now address all energy-related issues, including renewable energy standards and production. As a national leader in the promotion of renewable energy technologies, the state looks to spur economic growth while protecting the environment. Most recently, the Legislature has taken on the development of biofuel, biogas, biodiesel and anaerobic digesters.

By 2014, the analysts were cranking the numbers, and we reported that consultants determined that the implementation of a proposed clean fuel standard would increase the price of fuel by 2 cents per gallon by 2020. The analysis outlines a variety of policy options, their costs and the investment required to implement the various infrastructure needs in order to achieve the policy.

The first major attempt to pass a Washington state low-carbon standard was stymied in 2015. We reported that state lawmakers passed a $15B transportation package by a 27-22 vote that includes a provision that “effectively prohibits a Clean Fuel Standard for Washington state,” according to the Low Carbon Fuels Coalition. The bill now proceeds to the Governor for his signature, which is expected. The “poison pill” provision in the bill diverts money from special transportation needs such as rural transportation assistance, walking and biking programs and van pools, if the Washington state Governor, Jay Inslee, issues an executive order establishing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The GOP contends that such a standard would increase gas prices — after the GOP voted en bloc to raise gasoline taxes and transportation fees in the bill.


Efforts got an indirect boost from the courts in 2016, we reported that King County Superior Court Judge Hollis R. Hill issued a groundbreaking ruling that the “scientific evidence is clear that the current rates of (emissions) reduction mandated by Washington law. . . cannot ensure the survival of an environment in which [youth] can grow to adulthood safely.” The judge determined that the State has a “mandatory duty” to “preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations,” and found the state’s current standards to fail that standard dramatically for several reasons. The ruling is in a case of eight youth petitioners who requested that the Washington Department of Ecology write a carbon emissions rule that protects the atmosphere for their generation and those to come.

By 2019, the efforts for a low-carbon standard came as close as passing the measure in the state House. We reported that the House passed a Clean Fuels Standard (H.B. 1110) that would institute a low carbon fuel program by 2020. The program is designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation fuels 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below those same levels by 2035. Supporters share that the program will play a significant role in meeting the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

But the push forward finally gained the right amount of traction this year. We reported in February that the state House passed Bill1091 – a statewide clean fuel standard bill – and now is headed to the state Senate for voting. It passed the House with a vote of 52-46 and is the third year the House chamber has voted in support of the policy. The bill would adopt a rule establishing a Clean Fuels Program that would limit greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035.

Eventually, the bill passed in the Senate. As of this weekend, the Climate Solutions Group was commenting that, “however, in the Senate, there were amendments to the bill that weren’t great, and which the House refused to concur with. The House asked the Senate to recede from the amendments. The Senate just officially decided to send the bill to Conference. What this means is that a few members of both chambers get together and work out a negotiated version of the bill, which both chambers still need to give a final yay or nay to.”

As Climate Solutions noted, “The bill that will come out of conference will not be 100% of what we want, but that’s expected from the legislative process. At this point, we’ve played our strongest hand and this bill—which has been under consideration in various forms in WA for many years—is on the cusp of passing.

The Bottom Line

Now, it’s passed, and on to Governor Inslee for a swift signing. A golden age awaits.




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