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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 16, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Gov. Inslee accuses Senate GOP of “fear mongering” over fuel standards

Gov. Jay Inslee blasted the GOP-led majority in the Senate for suggesting he had a hidden plan to impose a carbon tax through executive order.

Inslee singled out Sen. Curtis King, co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, in  a three-page letter for suggesting the governor “come clean” with his plans for such a tax.

“I have never proposed, nor discussed proposing, a ‘carbon fuel tax,’ ” Inslee wrote in a letter Thursday to leaders of the Senate majority. “I have discussed a low carbon fuel standard as a mechanism to develop cleaner fuels for our state. There is no element of a clean fuels standard that could in any way be called a tax.

“That you choose to call it a tax suggests that this effort is more about fear mongering or excuses for inaction than an actual discussion of the costs of reducing pollution from our transportation system.”

Senate Republican Leaders could not immediately be reached for comment.

Senate Republicans have argued for several weeks that Inslee was threatening efforts to craft a multi-billion dollar transportation tax package with a secret plan to impose a carbon tax or low-carbon-fuel standards through executive order or agency regulation.

Inslee has championed the need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and signed a pact with Oregon, California and British Columbia last year promising to do so.

A low-carbon-fuel standard is a policy designed to reduce the amount of carbon in transportation fuels. Inslee has been vague about what he plans to do or what such a policy might entail.

Republicans contend such standards would drive up fuel costs and hurt the economy. They have asked Inslee to promise he would not take action unilaterally.

House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said recently she’d heard concerns from the trucking industry about the rumored standards.

Inslee in his letter there is no proposal at this point.

“Therefore, without the existence of such a proposal, I don’t understand your contention that ‘my proposal’ will cost anything, let alone in excess of a dollar per gallon,” the governor wrote. “I can assure you that no proposal from me that adds significant costs at the pump will ever materialize. I will ensure this by demanding real cost-containment measures and a thorough and very public analysis of all costs and benefits associated with any clean fuels proposal before moving forward.”

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