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After Failure Of I-1631, Work Progresses On Clean Fuel Standard

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
In this file photo from 2007, a sample of blended biodiesel fuel is shown during a demonstration for reporters at a Safeway gas station in West Seattle. Wider use of cleaner alternatives such as biofuels would likely result from a clean fuel standard.

It may seem like nothing is happening to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state, especially after the failure of the carbon-fee measure, Initiative 1631. But work is progressing on a regional "clean fuel standard."

The focus follows a goal announced by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agencyto reduce climate pollution by 50 percent below 1990 levels, by the year 2030. Transportation emissions contributemore greenhouse gas pollution than anything else in Washington state.

So, when the agency began looking at ways to reach that goal, it quickly zeroed in on the clean fuel standard. It requires fuel providers to reduce the amount of carbon pollution in their fuels. California, Oregon and British Columbia all have versions of this policy. Craig Kenworthy, the agency's executive director, says they started working on a regional rule about two years ago.

"And the benefit of the program is you set the target and tell everyone you've got to hit this target, but you let the market and innovation figure out how to get to that, or how to achieve that target,” he said.

Kenworthy says the PSCAA board is looking to Oregon as a model as they explore policy design, because Washington’s southern neighbor is about the same size as the four Puget Sound counties the agency covers.

The agency is exploring its regional policy at the same time that the Legislature is expected to resume work on a statewide rule. But until now, there has not been enough support to advance one.

“We’ll be actively supporting the Legislature doing this at the state level," Kenworthy said. "It’s just that that hasn’t happened yet. And we have direction from (our) board to continue working on regional strategies, in the absence of significant state policy."

Kenworthy added that the strength of the policy is that it provides certainty of emission reductions, paired with flexibility for how to reach the targets, encouraging innovation.  

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to