In the last quarterly newsletter, we were happy to inform our members of a major victory in Oregon for those working to reduce carbon pollution and cement a strong market signal for clean fuels production.
March 12th was the date that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the Clean Fuel Program (CFP) into law, removing a sunset date on a program six years in the making. Since then, decision-makers have embarked upon closed-door sessions to discuss a transportation package. Even early on, there were rumors that some decision-makers wanted to use the Clean Fuels Program – though already signed into law – as a bargaining chip in negotiations for a transportation package. Their suggestion was to repeal or modify the Clean Fuel Program in exchange for moving forward with a package, which would include a gas tax increase. Clean fuel opponents state they won’t support both a gas tax increase (for infrastructure) and a CFP (for cleaner air).
California’s similar low carbon fuel standard raised the cost of gas (to fuel suppliers) just a third of a penny, according to data released by UC Davis in April this year. If Oregon’s experience was different than California’s and costs were higher, there are price protections built into the program. And, these types of increases can pale in comparison to what we would expect long-term for historically volatile fossil fuel prices. Combined with the fact that some fuel suppliers have the biggest profit margins in this region (compared with the rest of the country), the cost argument does not hold much water here.
Last week, The Oregonian reported that a deal had been reached, and the CFP would be repealed. In successive days, lawmakers released statements that this was not the case and 19 lawmakers wrote a public letter to Gov. Brown stating that they would not support repeal of the CFP. Advocates of all kinds are rallying to ensure that the message is heard loud and clear: keep the Clean Fuel Program as is. E2 helped organize a sign-on letter with major clean fuels businesses from across the country as well as prominent organizations, in addition to encouraging local E2 members and friends to contact key legislators. We may hear what the result is by the time this newsletter hits your inbox, or shortly thereafter.
In the meantime, a parallel story has been unfolding in the Washington State legislature since early March, where a “Clean Fuels Poison Pill” was included as part of a Senate Transportation Package. This provision effectively bars a Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) from being implemented by Gov. Jay Inslee by stating that transit funding would be moved to the roads and highways fund upon implementation of a CFS.
Similar to Oregon, the decision of whether to include the Clean Fuels Poison Pill in a final transportation package is happening in closed-door discussions, and as the session (the second special session this year) draws to a close there have been conflicting reports and unsettling rumors. It may be that a Clean Fuel Standard, with only a discussion draft released in February and no formal rulemaking, is already a casualty of compromise. E2 has reached out directly to key legislators to highlight the economic importance of a CFS and to ask them to consider a transportation package as a separate issue.
While there is still time in the coming days to advocate to legislators, E2 has been encouraging members in both states to speak out. A clean fuel policy in both states is what’s needed, and legislators need to hear this message. It’s a model policy – one that will certainly reduce carbon pollution, send a strong market signal to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in clean fuels, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and expand homegrown production of fuels.
Taken with the efforts of California and British Columbia, this would represent the fifth largest economy in the world taking a stand for cleaner fuel. Oregon and Washington need to step up and lead, if we are going to continue the trend toward cleaner fuel as a nation.
– Rebecca Deehr is E2's Pacific Northwest Advocate.