Puget Sound unveils new regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard

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From Washington state we have news that the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has issued its Low Carbon Fuel Standard rule for consideration.  

This is the first economic region to attempt a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and follows on from the failure of the Washington State Legislature to complete passage of all the elements in the package of climate bills offered in the legislative session that concluded earlier this year.

At the time, it was mooted that the Puget Sound area would attempt to develop a standard of its own. Meanwhile, efforts have resumed towards getting a statewide Standard passed in the upcoming legislative session.

The population impact

The Puget Sound proposal covers metropolitan Seattle and King County, Tacoma and Pierce County, Everett and Snohomish County, and Bremerton and Kitsap County.

The area includes a significant chunk of Washington state’s population and economic activity., including 4 of the state’s 7 biggest counties by population, and covers 4.209 million people at last count, or 55.8 percent of the state’s population. 

The population covered by the proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standard is greater than the statewide population of Oregon, which operates under a statewide LCFS for its 4.19 million people.

The Draft Rule

You can find that here.

The Emission Cut

First, the standard proposes to reduce emissions to 25 percent below 2016 emissions by 2030. This is ambitious compared to the original California program, which aimed to cut emissions by 20 percent compared to an earlier, lower baseline. California’s program has since been refocused on a 30 percent cut.

The Calculation Method

Carbon Intensities are largely based on California pathways, as updated for Washington state. This is similar to the Oregon approach, and aims to avoid the creation of multiple bureaucracies and balkanizing the fuel market. Rather, pathways will be the same up and down the US Pacific Coast.

When does it start?

The first compliance year would be 2021, with reporting only — the cuts in emissions would come annually after that, and fast.

What’s covered?

Covered Fuels are gasoline, diesel, ethanol, biodiesel, renewable hydrocarbon diesel, fossil natural gas, liquefied petroleum, blends of these. Opt-in fuels include electricity, bio-CNG, bio-LNG, hydrogen, alternative jet fuel, renewable propane

Who’s exempted?

Exemption include Inter-state locomotives, ocean-going vessels, aircraft, military tactical vehicles and tactical support equipment, small volume fuel suppliers.

Who gets the money paid up for carbon credits?

For utility and transit agency reinvestments based on sale of carbon credits, the draft calls for 35% of revenue to be spent within “highly impacted communities” within the service territory. That means a community so designated by the Department of Health based on cumulative impact analyses that are detailed in the legislation. Community Advisory Groups will represent the needs of highly impacted communities

What’s the expected economic impact?

The Puget Sound authority estimates that public health savings will reach up to $45 million from avoided deaths, and that the region will add 330,000 jobs with a regional clean fuel standard.

The authorities estimate that total cost per-mile-traveled is “likely to decrease” as fuel efficient engines and options begin to proliferate in the state.

The Public Comments period

The public comment period is just now underway and will continue through January 6, 2020. Comments can be sent to cleanfuels@pscleanair.org. Also, there will be a public hearing on December 19th at the Seattle convention center.

The Board decision will be taken in 2020, February 27th at the earliest.

The agency’s Board of Directors, made up of elected officials from across the region, includes  county executives, mayors, and council members (full board list here).

The Bottom Line

For sure, this is historic, and not only with its ambition and the aggressive timelines. The regional nature of this Low Carbon Fuel Standard communicates to those concerned about climate change that local authorities will step forward to take leadership even where state legislatures falter. Just as, in the case of Oregon and California, that state legislatures will step forward where federal leadership falters.



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