Act now to cut gas prices, 43 lawmakers tell Department of Ecology

Gildon letter outlines plan for state agency to end nation’s highest gas prices

To see letter, click here.

OLYMPIA – Forty-three lawmakers have signed a letter urging the Department of Ecology to back off on stringent new regulations that have given Washington the highest gas prices in the nation.

The letter, authored by Sen. Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup, outlines steps the agency has authority to take to provide immediate relief, without waiting for the Legislature to pass a bill. The letter attributes Washington’s gas-price shock to rulemaking by the Department of Ecology as it implemented cap and trade legislation passed by lawmakers in 2021.

Washington gas prices are an average $4.96 a gallon, according to the American Automobile Association. That’s 8 cents higher than the second-ranked state, California, and $1.44 higher than the national average of $3.52.

When the bill was being debated, its prime mover, Gov. Jay Inslee, promised the Legislature that the impact of the 2021 Climate Commitment Act would be pennies on the gallon. But Washington gas prices shot up when the program launched in January, and they have been rising ever since. The letter says, “While some CCA proponents may have intended for this law to make gas more expensive, the rapid rate at which fuel prices are soaring is frightening to the constituents we represent.”

Gildon said, “The fact that 42 lawmakers joined me in signing this letter is a clear sign that the Legislature is not pleased. Ecology made choices when it designed the program that have helped send gas prices into the stratosphere.

“We’re urging Ecology to change the rules and fulfill the promises that were made when the bill was passed. If Ecology doesn’t make course corrections now, the debate we have next year about the future of this program will be all the more intense.”

Under cap and trade, industries that emit carbon are required to purchase “allowances” at auction, with proceeds going to carbon reduction programs. The oil refining industry has been tagged with responsibility for tailpipe emissions, and the cost of allowances has been estimated at 45 cents a gallon, with the cost passed on to consumers.

Gildon’s letter makes specific recommendations for rule changes. They include technical changes to the auction marketplace, increasing the supply of allowances, and a slower ramp-up of tougher requirements. The letter urges Ecology to expand a break for manufacturers that compete nationally and internationally, and to honor the bill’s promise of an exemption for agriculture and the maritime industry. It also suggests Ecology adopt a rule allowing the program to be suspended if gas prices continue to skyrocket.

“All our predictions are coming true,” said Gildon, who voted with Republicans against the program due to skepticism about cost estimates. “The Legislature won’t be able to do anything about cap and trade until we return to Olympia six months from now. But the great news is that there are a number of adjustments the Department of Ecology can make right now in order to reduce the pain at the pump. We are looking forward to hearing from Director Laura Watson about what the agency plans to do.”