Rules Set to Cut Carbon Emissions by 20% Over Next 12 Years in Washington State


The Washington State Department of Ecology has finished writing the rules for the Clean Fuel Standard, a program that requires a 20% reduction in 2017 transportation emissions over 12 years.

The program focuses on decreasing transportation emissions by switching to cleaner fuels such as renewable diesel and electricity.

The final rules for the program were adopted by the Department of Ecology Monday, Nov. 28, and take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

The standard aims to reduce about 4.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide statewide by 2034.

"The Clean Fuel Standard is a market-based approach designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the entire transportation system. That includes emissions released while producing the fuels and well as using them," Susan Woodward, communications manager with the Washington State Department of Ecology, told The Bellingham Herald in an email.

Fuel suppliers and producers can improve their own fuel production process or purchase credits from others.

Whatcom County is home to two of the state's five oil refineries.

BP invested $269 million to improve its oil refinery at Cherry Point when the law passed in 2021. Cherry Point is the largest oil refinery in the state, and its 2021 2.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are second only to the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia.

The Cherry Point refinery plans to improve the hydrocracker, the cooling water system and to more than double the processing capacity of its renewable diesel operations.

"BP's ambition is to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner, and to help the world reach net zero, too. Consistent with this ambition, we are actively advocating for policies that address greenhouse gas emissions and the low carbon fuel standard in Washington state certainly fits that category. We look forward to helping the State reach its goals in reducing the carbon intensity of its transportation sector in the coming years," Christina Audisho, BP media relations manager, said in an email to The Herald.

The Phillips 66 oil refinery in Ferndale is also making plans to meet the emissions target set by the state. That refinery released 830,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021.

"We look forward to working with the Department of Ecology to achieve sustainability goals. Phillips 66 company-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets are focused on lowering the emissions intensity of our globally operated assets, the products we manufacture and sell, and to account for market and technological uncertainties. Phillips 66 has a goal to reduce Green House Gas Emissions by 30 percent by 2030," Lisa Lindsey, director of government and community relations for Phillips 66, said in an email to The Herald.

The state's new clean fuel standard also requires imported fuel meet a standard of carbon intensity. If the fuel doesn't meet the standard, the importer will be assigned deficits and need to buy credits to cancel out the deficits, Woodward said.

California, Oregon and British Columbia have already implemented similar programs. The Washington Legislature passed the Clean Fuel Standard in 2021 with the initial goal to reduce emissions by 20% by 2038. The deadline was pushed to 2034 after a strong public response and an independent economic analysis showed the accelerated timeline was possible, according to the Department of Ecology.

"We expect this will incentivize production of cleaner gas and diesel used in everyday transportation, yes. In addition, we anticipate it will lead to increased production of more climate-friendly fuels, such as hydrogen, biofuels and electricity, making these alternatives more available and affordable," Woodward said.