Washington Farm Bureau and the Washington Trucking Associations file an APA challenge against the Department of Ecology.
Throughout the past nine months, Washington Farm Bureau (WFB), the Washington Trucking Associations (WTA), and the greater agriculture community have remained engaged on the issues surrounding the Climate Commitment Act’s (CCA) exemption of agriculture related fuels. These parties have sought to work with the Department of Ecology (DOE) and the state Legislature to try to find a fix for the unresolved portions of the exemption that agriculture and trucks hauling agriculture products are owed under the law.
Since the CCA program was implemented in January, WFB and WTA have consistently offered multiple suggestions and solutions to DOE. Unfortunately, the agency has chosen not to move forward on any of the options that have been presented.
On June 19th, WFB and the WTA jointly filed a Petition for Rulemaking asking DOE to initiate the rulemaking process to ensure the guaranteed exemption is facilitated and to develop a mechanism by which those who have been unlawfully charged are reimbursed. On August 11, DOE denied the petition; refusing to recognize the obligation the agency has to ensure the agriculture exemption is being executed. DOE’s response sought to point their finger and pass the blame onto the fuel suppliers. Yet, the CCA language explicitly identifies DOE as the entity mandated by law to “adopt rules to implement the provisions of the program.”
After nine months of seeking to address these concerns and DOE repeatedly resisting efforts to ensure the law is upheld, agriculture and trucking are unable to wait longer for a fix as the damages are quickly mounting. The cost to agriculture alone is estimated to be around $74 million by the end of the year. On Friday, September 8, WFB and WTA filed an Administrative Procedure Act challenge. This challenge takes the issue to the judicial branch and looks to the courts to compel DOE into rulemaking seeking to resolve these issues once and for all.
Bre Elsey, WFB’s Director of Governmental Affairs, addressing the need for this legal challenge, stated, “We feel like there are solutions that are ready but unfortunately Ecology has not been willing to move forward. We have waited for nine months and we cannot wait longer for Ecology to address a crippling issues that should have been addressed by January 1st of this year.”
Sheri Call, President/CEO of Washington Trucking Associations, commented on the damage this issue is having on the Washington trucking industry. “As a mobile industry, trucking finds it extremely frustrating that we are losing business to outside carriers, companies who are not subject to CCA and have opportunity and access to buy fuel out of state. Mitigating the exemption issue is important because it was relied upon during passage of CCA, however it is just one aspect of bigger problems for trucking companies in Washington.”
As the litigation process begins, agriculture and trucking continue to bear the burden of tens of millions of dollars from which they should, by law, be exempt. Perhaps the greatest injustice is that the smallest and most vulnerable farms and trucking operations are the ones being disproportionately impacted the most by these unresolved issues. Mitch Jamison, a grain farmer in Garfield, expressed the crisis by stating, “Margins in farming are going to get tighter this next year, so paying another fee that we should not be paying is frustrating.” Jeff Pittmann, fellow Whitman County farmer, expanded that point stating, “The Climate Commitment Act is affecting not only farmers but everyone's bottom line.”
As these industries are looking at an unexpected cost of $74 million this year, WFB and WTA recognize that the time has come to pursue all possible roads to a solution. The hope being that the courts will now provide the needed incentive to resolve this issue for agriculture and trucking.