The State Senate made progress toward enacting a statewide Clean Fuel Standard with the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee voting for the policy. It next moves to the Senate Ways & Means committee and could mean the chamber will finally act this year after failing to do so for the past two years. This is the third year the Legislature has considered the Clean Fuel Standard (HB 1091), with the House approving the policy each time. The pressure now builds on Senate leadership and members to pass this strong policy that has the support of more than two-thirds of Washington voters. California, Oregon and British Columbia have all had the policy in place for years.
The Clean Fuel Standard cuts air pollution by requiring cleaner transportation fuels to power vehicles, and invests in communities most impacted by transportation pollution.
“This is not just an issue of carbon emissions,” said Robert Britten, a Washingtonian who testified during the committee’s public hearing on the bill last week. “For many of us in marginalized communities, it’s a matter of life and death.”
Britten referred to the disparate impact that pollution from transportation fuels and other sources has on the health of communities of color across the state, illustrated by tools including the Department of Health’s Environmental Health Disparities Map.
Transportation pollution is Washington State’s largest source of climate pollution as well as air pollution linked to asthma, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases. Burning fossil fuels releases various kinds of particulate matter and toxins into the air, including microscopic, ultrafine particles so small that they get deep into our lungs and bloodstream. This pollution causes serious health problems, like premature death in people with heart or lung disease, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, increased coughing and difficulty breathing. It is now even more urgent to address, with links to likelihood of complications from COVID-19 and “smoke seasons” now happening statewide the last several summers from wildfires raging across the region.
“This bill is vitally important to the health of children, as they are uniquely susceptible to pollutants,” explained Dr. Allie Obremskey, a resident pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “The AAP specifically calls for reducing kids’ exposure to both gasoline and diesel exhaust and supports legislation consistent with the goals in the Clean Fuel Standard.”
Four high school students took time from their school day to also testify in support of the bill, each describing the impacts pollution has had on their young lives and exhorting lawmakers to act without delay. One South Seattle student, Layla Ismail, explained how poor air quality has affected her lungs, leading to multiple surgeries and keeping her indoors when her peers were playing outside. “We need to pass legislation like the Clean Fuel Standard so that ten years in the future kids won’t have to go through the same thing I did or worse,” she said.
The list of supporters continues to grow, with most recently Amazon, the state’s largest employer, weighing in supporting the pollution solution as well as restaurants around the region. Notably, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents the manufacturers of 99% of the new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S., testified in support as well. The coalition has a broad range of voices including unions like IBEW, UFCW 21, medical professionals and health associations including the Washington Health Care Climate Alliance, the Port of Seattle and Northwest Seaport Alliance, King County Metro Transit, Tacoma Power, ChargePoint, the Electric Vehicle Charging Association, Neste, Generate Capital along with many others.
“Ports are charged by the state with operating transportation facilities to promote economic development,” explained Commissioner Sam Cho of the Port of Seattle and Northwest Seaport Alliance. “This bill supports good transportation policy by reducing emissions from that sector and it supports econ development by putting in place an incentive for the use of clean energy transportation technology.” He also noted that the policy supports progress toward environmental justice. “For far too long, neighborhoods next to freeways, near ports, and under airport flight paths have faced a disproportionate impact from pollution. That’s why the port has been focused on reducing emissions associated with our operations and why a Clean Fuel Standard would be another step in the right direction.”
Requiring cleaner fuels and electricity for transportation is a necessary component of meeting Washington State’s updated carbon emissions reduction targets set into law by the Legislature last year, and is the baseline for creating pathways toward cleaner transportation options, such as expanded electric vehicle infrastructure, electric vehicle car sharing programs, and investments in renewable sustainable biodiesel and renewable (not fossil) bio-gas.
In addition to HB 1091, the Legislature is considering several critical complementary policies this session to address climate change including cutting pollution from the building sector, clean and just ways to fund transportation, prioritizing environmental justice (HEAL Act) and investing in a just recovery. Because the Legislature took no meaningful action last year to make major cuts to pollution, the imperative to cut emissions from several sectors is more urgent than ever.
FACT CHECKS: More resources for countering confusing information, including misinformation on costs and the program in California are available.
ABOUT THE CLEAN FUELS COALITION
Hundreds of organizations, local elected officials and jurisdictions, health associations and hospitals, small businesses, unions and advocacy groups support clean fuels and have been working for several years to see the solution come to Washington. Many supporters also have a presence in Oregon, where the policy has been law for years and where Gov. Kate Brown doubled the standard in 2020. @cleanfuelswork cleanfuelswork.org
ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL PRIORITIES COALITION
The Environmental Priorities Coalition is a network of over twenty leading environmental groups in Washington state that influence policy at the state level. For over a decade, the Coalition has selected joint priority issues to work on during the legislative session to help focus environmental community resources and best achieve our shared goals. @epctweets environmentalpriorities.org