Oregon rethinks low-carbon fuels standard

The fate of a new, much-needed transportation package remains an unknown in the protracted budget negotiations in Olympia. House Democrats even asked their transportation chair, Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-41) to cease negotiating with her Senate counterparts until an operating budget deal is struck. Talks did finally resume today.

While not surprising, it’s too bad the transportation package is being treated as a maybe-they’ll-get-to-it proposition. Our economy will receive a boost from the projects a package would fund. We need to upgrade our infrastructure, get people and goods moving, and improve commute times.

Interesting development in Oregon
Much of the haggling in our Legislature has focused on the Inslee Administration’s desire to implement a low-carbon fuels standard (LCFS) by executive order. The Senate’s transportation package included a “poison pill” that seeks to prevent Gov. Inslee from signing such an order. Many think an LCFS would raise gas prices for negligible environmental benefit.

Down in Oregon, they passed an LCFS program back in 2009 with a sunset date this year. Most of the law’s serious provisions hadn’t kicked in yet, and Republican legislators in Salem objected to renewing the program. Majority Democrats jammed through a renewal anyway earlier this spring.

Oregon’s program has been slammed by the Oregonian for its lack of transparency. The paper called it “a complex regulatory scheme whose most notable design feature may be its opacity.”

To the surprise of some, Oregon’s Democratic governor and many legislative Democrats appear open to repealing Oregon’s LCFS to secure Republican votes for a transportation package. Instead of an LCFS that drives up gas prices, the Legislature would fund “electric car-charging stations, compressed natural gas pumps for vehicles,” conversion of school buses to alternative fuels, and traffic flow improvements.

That’s a smart compromise that benefits just about everyone – not just those who were to directly profit from an imposed LCFS subsidy. Washington’s legislators should take note, and then get on with passing this package before time runs out.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.