This Washington

"Eviscerating" Big Oil

By Josh Feit January 28, 2010

Cliff Traisman, the lead lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council, and one of the lead advocates for the hazardous substance tax that liberals are pushing in the state legislature, says the new approach—tripling the existing hazardous substance tax to clean up storm water pollution—"eviscerates the biggest arguments" oil company lobbyists made against last session's fee idea. (Environmentalists tried, but failed, to pass a barrel fee, as opposed to a tax, on petroleum last year to clean up stormwater waste.)

Last year, the oil industry argued that 1) the fee was actually a new tax—which would have required a two-thirds vote in the state legislature or a statewide vote; 2) the fee would have violated the state constitution's 18th Amendment, which mandates that all gas taxes must go to road construction and maintenance; and 3) it was unfair to target the oil industry as the sole offender on stormwater pollution.

Traisman says that raising the existing haz mat tax from 0.7 percent to 2 percent addresses those issues "in one fell swoop."

He points out: 1) It's not a new tax. 2) Voters specifically earmarked this tax for pollution cleanup, like cleaning up the polluted Duwamish River, when they passed it in 1988. And 3) The tax doesn't single out the oil industry—it's a broad tax on hazardous substances.

Traisman also points out that the tax hasn't been raised since it was first enacted more than 20 years ago.

I have a call in to oil industry lobbyist Greg Hannon to get the industry's perspective on the proposal.
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