Republicans want Gov. Inslee to slow climate change efforts

SEATTLE — Three months after Gov. Jay Inslee pledged to adopt a low carbon fuel standard in a climate pact West Coast leaders, some Republican lawmakers want to make sure he doesn’t take unilateral action.

One Republican lawmaker is sponsoring a measure to prevent the governor from issuing an executive order to require producers to offer transportation fuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The governor can’t go it alone on this one,” said Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, who is sponsoring the bill.

Meanwhile, other Republican leaders warn that a low carbon fuel standard — similar to California’s first-in-the-nation mandate — could derail efforts on a new multi-billion dollar tax package for transportation projects.

“This is an issue of trust. We cannot ask the people of Washington and our job creators to support a 10-cent gas tax if the governor plans to add more taxes,” Sen. Curtis King, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said in a statement.

Critics say the policy could raise the price of gasoline by as much as $1.06 per gallon, but Inslee disputed those numbers last week and said: “It is not a tax by government on gasoline or anything else. Those who say it’s a tax are just flat wrong.”

“It is something we are not taking off the table,” Inslee told reporters last week. “And it’s something I believe bears looking into, like many things.”

Pressed last week on whether he would take executive action on the matter, Inslee said any decision on a clean fuel standard would come after evaluating the full economic and environmental benefits and after a deliberative process.

Inslee rankled some Republican lawmakers when he signed onto a climate deal with the leaders of California, Oregon and British Columbia to cap carbon pollution and pursue a low carbon standard. The governor did so while a bipartisan state climate panel was in the midst of coming up with the most cost-effective strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.

That panel has deadlocked along party lines. It missed a Dec. 31 deadline to produce a report recommending how the state could meet its goal to reach 1990 emissions level by 2020. It’s likely that each party will come up with their own reports.

The two Republicans on the panel want to continue that process for another year to give them more time to fully study the economic and environmental impacts of various carbon-reducing strategies. But another Democrat on the panel, Sen. Kevin Ranker, has said it’s time to act.

A low carbon fuel standard requires fuel producers over time to offer a mix of cleaner fuels such as biofuels, biodiesel or natural gas. A federal appellate court upheld California’s standard last September.

The industry has argued that the standard places too high a burden on refiners and fuels makers, which will ultimately affect supply and drive up prices at the pump.

In Washington, a consultant hired by the climate panel, Leidos, estimated it would cost $103 to $131 per metric ton of carbon emissions reduction to fulfill a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of the fuel mix over a 10-year period.

A Boston Consulting Group study in 2012, commissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association, found that California’s standard would result in costs to industry requiring cost recovery of $0.33 to $1.06 per gallon. The consultant’s report, however, noted that a subsequent analysis by the UC Davis Policy Institute concluded that report was too narrow in scope and included a variety of problematic assumptions.

Republicans, however, have seized on that $1 gallon figure to raise questions about the success of a gas tax plan.

Inslee said last week that the issue never came up in his numerous meetings with lawmakers.

“Not one time in the last 12 months has a single legislator suggested in any way, shape or form that the ability to move forward to allow people to get to work is dependent on our ability not to solve our climate change program,” he said. He added that he hoped lawmakers would focus on finding compromise on the transportation package.

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