Environmental activists decry Washington State’s lack of tax on the oil industry for rail shipments of crude oil. Comparing California’s 6.5 cent per barrel tax, they demand our state implement a similar tax. Democrats like Jay Inslee—who rely on the support of extreme environmentalists—call for Washington to step up its prevention and response to oil spills by requiring the oil industry to pay its fair share.
But, what extreme environmentalist won’t mention is that the State Senate did propose a bill to tax the oil industry on shipments during the 2014 legislative cycle. The revenue of the tax would go toward paying for an oil spill prevention, preparation and response program. They also won’t mention that it is the result of their own efforts that the bill failed.
The News Tribune writes that, for more than two decades, “Washington’s oil refineries have paid a tax of five cents per barrel on marine landings of crude oil in our state.” And, for more than two decades, “The funding generated by this tax has allowed the Department of Ecology, working with the industry, to develop a comprehensive oil spill prevention, preparation and response program that has become a model for other states.”
Additionally, “Senate Bill 6567 would have extended the existing barrel tax to cover these shipments, generating an additional $1.6 million for the Department of Ecology in Fiscal Year 2015. In the 2015-17 biennium, the tax would have generated more than $6 million for DOE. This important new funding would have supported Ecology’s efforts to bring the same level of preparation and protection to rail shipments that it maintains for maritime shipments.”
The Senate Ways & Means Committee passed Senate Bill 6567 on a bipartisan vote. Unfortunately, on the same day that the bill came to a vote on the Senate floor, “the Washington Environmental Council (WEC) and the Washington Conservation Voters (WCV) distributed an alert arguing that extending the tax to crude-by-rail shipments was not enough.” In addition to the tax on oil shipments, they demanded a new tax on “shipments of blended biodiesel and other consumer products.”
Rather than treating the two taxes as separate issues and supporting SB 6567, the WEC and the WCV put its considerable weight (with Democrats) behind ensuring the bill’s defeat. It’s thanks to the nonsensical efforts of the WEC and WCV that Washington State is no longer a leader in environmental preparation and protection. But, then again, if SB 6567 was passed, Inslee would have one less environmental change to call for.