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Legislators Introduce a Bill to Ban the Sale of New Fossil-Fuel Powered Vehicles in Washington State in 2030

Legislators in Washington state’s House and Senate have introduced companion bills to ban the registration of new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles in the state in 2030.

If either House Bill 1204 or Senate Bill 5256 become law, it would require all new passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks registered in Washington state beginning in 2030 to be powered by electric batteries or hydrogen. The bills do not bar the continued ownership, registration or sale of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles sold before the end of 2029.

Reason for the Bills

The Seattle Times reports the bills are being promoted by Matthew Metz, an attorney who founded and serves as co-executive director of Coltura, a nonprofit calling for a “gasoline-free America.”

Metz says these bills or something like them are necessary if the state wants to meet ambitious targets the legislature set in previous laws for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

Metz’s impetus for championing the bills may be to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emission, but the language of the bills actually makes no mention of any intent to lower emissions.

Instead the bills’ sponsors say they are intended to boost Washington state’s economy by shifting transportation to lower-cost power produced from regional renewable electric power providers. The language of the bill also claims switching to electric or hydrogen powered vehicles will reduce water pollution.

“There are many other reasons to switch from gas to electric besides emission reductions — useful life of the vehicle, fueling, and maintenance costs,” Washington state Rep. Nicole Macri, (D-Seattle), a sponsor of the House’s version of the legislation said in an e-mail, cited by the Seattle Times (Times).

AG Warns of Legal Complications

Not everyone in Washington state’s government is embracing the new gasoline vehicle ban, however.

The Times reports, Yasmin Trudeau, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s legislative director, sent an e-mail to two sponsors of the legislation, expressing “serious concerns” about the bills.

In her e-mail, Trudeau these bills would face expensive litigation in both state and federal court if they become law, because they would go beyond the state’s authority to regulate  transportation emissions under 1970 federal Clean Air Act (CAA).

At the present time, California is the only state the federal government has granted the power to set its own emission standards for automobiles under the CAA. Although the federal government has allowed other states to adopt California’s standards, no state has been granted the authority to impose stricter standards than California has set. The ban on the sale of new gasoline powered vehicles after 2030 contained in the Washington state bills, goes beyond California’s CAA exemption. As a result, Trudeau’s e-mail said, “we would very likely lose in district court” setting an unfavorable precedent.

Time Limit May Block Passage

History shows, to have a realistic chance of passage by the full house before the Wuhan-virus abbreviated 2021 legislative session ends, the bill will likely have to pass out the House Transportation Committee by the end of February.

Despite holding a hearing on the bill on February 1, state Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma), chair of the House Transportation Committee, “has yet to meet with other Democrats on the committee to discuss the bill, and whether—given the concerns raised by the state attorney general—it should move forward,” writes the Seattle Times.

Fey told the Times, the committee has a number of urgent items it needs to finish, including a transportation funding bill. Yet the time and ability to debate bills is especially limited this session, in response to the Wuhan corona-virus pandemic, to online meetings only. As a result, Fey says, fewer bills than normal will be debated and get through committees and through the full House itself in the 2021 session.

“This will not be a bill that will take 15 minutes in committee and 15 minutes on the floor to debate,” Fey said, according to Times. “This will take a lot of time.

“We’ve got to make choices … It doesn’t look like this has a high likelihood of moving forward,” said Fey.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hsburnett@heartland.org) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

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