Vehicles come and go from a busy Tulalip Market gas station as the price for regular unleaded drops to $2.99 Thursday, in Tulalip. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Vehicles come and go from a busy Tulalip Market gas station as the price for regular unleaded drops to $2.99 Thursday, in Tulalip. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

On Tulalip Reservation, gas prices fall below $3

The tribes’ two gas stations switched to a Yakama Nation-owned distributor. The result? Cheaper gas, bustling pumps.

TULALIP — Gas prices at two stations on the Tulalip Reservation plummeted to $2.99 a gallon on Thursday, thanks to a deal the tribes struck with a Yakama Nation-owned distributor.

The Tulalip Market gas station at 2832 116th St. NE in Tulalip, just north of the tribes’ Quil Ceda Village shopping center, was bustling Thursday afternoon. No pump was left unoccupied for more than a moment before another vehicle pulled up. An electronic sign on the street corner nearby advertised the switch to a new, less-expensive fuel. The tribes’ other gas station at 3110 Marine Drive showed the same low prices.

The drastic price drop comes courtesy of the Tulalip Tribes’ recent switch from its previous Chevron distributor to Cougar Den, a fuel distribution company owned by the Yakama Nation, said Quil Ceda Village general manager Martin Napeahi.

Napeahi said that since fuel is being sold from one Indigenous tribe to another, it’s not subject to state gas taxes. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Yakama Nation Treaty of 1855 preempted a Washington state law claiming the ability to tax fuel bought by a tribal corporation for sale to tribal members. The result is that the tribes can pass on those savings to consumers, Napeahi said.

“With the holiday season coming up, and with us heading to a recession if not already in one, we wanted to provide a bit of relief at the pump if we can,” Napeahi said.

Tulalip’s prices were the lowest in the Everett area as of Friday, according to price-tracking site GasBuddy. Typical rates hovered between $3.80 to $4.20, with the Everett Costco and an independent station on West Casino Road tied for the lowest in the city at $3.69 a gallon. The only serious competition seemed to be $2.70 gas in Anacortes, if you’re willing to make the trek to Skagit County.

Gas prices on the Tulalip Reservation are already typically lower than other options in the area thanks to the tribes’ tax arrangement with the state. The tribes keep the state gas tax of 49 cents per gallon, so they have more flexibility in their pricing. That tax revenue is earmarked for road maintenance and infrastructure, Napeahi said.

Napeahi said one goal of the dramatic decrease in prices was to increase the volume of gas sold and bring in more tax funds for those services. Like everyone else, tribal expenses have skyrocketed in the era of inflation, he said. So tribal leaders hope to bring in some extra revenue while helping others save a few bucks, too.

“Of course we want to be competitive, but our intention here isn’t to start a price war,” Napeahi said. “We want to help cut down on some of the stress of everyday living where we can.”

Riley Haun: 425-339-3192; riley.haun@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @RHaunID.

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