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Legislation would require utilities to line item cap-and-trade costs in bills

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(Center Square) – If you have paperless billing for your utilities and don’t pay close attention to your bank account, you may not have noticed an increase in charges due to the 2021 Climate Commitment Act.

Under the CCA, the state’s biggest polluters are required to reduce their carbon emissions or purchase allowances at auctions – which began this year – to cover them.

Some lawmakers contend that for the sake of transparency, those additional costs incurred by utilities to purchase allowances to cover their greenhouse gas emissions should be listed on bills.

That’s the goal of Senate Bill 5826, which would require customer charges to be listed on utility billing statements if the charges are a result of implementing the CCA.

According to the text of the bill, “The legislature finds that electrical or gas companies may seek to recover the costs of implementing the Washington climate commitment act, which may result in ballooning future rate increases for customers.”

SB 5826 goes on to say, “The legislature recognizes that the utilities and transportation commission may allow for the recovery of such costs through a charge to customers. Therefore, to promote transparency for the public, the legislature intends to require the utilities and transportation commission and utility companies to list on billing statements all approved charges related to the implementation of the climate commitment act.”

During an Oct. 4 appearance on TVW’s “The Impact,” the prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Drew MacEwan, R-Shelton, said the lack of transparency on this issue is “the fundamental problem we have right now in our state.”

He went on to note, “We’re demanding all this transparency, but the government is not being transparent about the program. And Ecology has demonstrated that time and again, as has the Inslee administration.”

Ecology previously made inaccurate projections about the impact of the carbon tax on gas prices, while Gov. Jay Inslee had claimed the CCA would raise fuel costs by just “pennies” per gallon.

Neighboring states Oregon and Idaho have lower gas prices than Washington, MacEwan pointed out on TVW.

This summer, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved a rate hike of just over 3 percent requested by Puget Sound Energy to cover increased natural gas costs from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

The UTC commissioners also made it illegal for PSE to tell their customers why their rates went up because, according to documents, the commission argued spelling out the new charges for customers would “quickly result in lengthy and confusing bills.”

Washington’s upcoming 60-day legislative session begins on Jan. 8.

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