A tax break for greener jet fuel is raising eyebrows among a tribe that doesn’t want Big Biofuel in its backyard.
Here’s the deal. Senate Bill 5447 from Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, would cut big players in the biofuel scene a preferable business and occupation tax rate of 0.275 percent. We’re talking about producers who can pump 20 million gallons of the stuff per year. This is a tax break for titans like Neste,¹ a Finnish oil company whose American arm owns Seattle-based General Biodiesel, and Amsterdam-based SkyNRG, which is poised to announce a biofuel refinery somewhere in our fair state.
The deal is less enticing for the aforementioned tribe, the Lummi Nation, whose reservation lies just west of Bellingham and 8 miles from where BP America is developing a massive renewable diesel operation in Whatcom County. The tribe has had existing oil refineries as neighbors for decades and wants to make sure Big Biofuel plays by a good neighbor rulebook.
The tribe said as much in a letter sent to the House Environment and Energy Committee, in which they requested SB 5447 be put on the back burner until air, water, and land rights are spelled out in the bill.
Tom Wolf with BP America assured the committee on Monday the company will be talking things over with the Lummi Nation before a shovel hits the dirt. That conversation is bound to get tricky when tribal sovereignty and treaties come into play.
Tribal opposition has been a recurrent theme in the development of major energy projects in recent years. Majority Democrats in Olympia are searching for ways to ease those concerns in the arena of green energy development aimed at achieving the state’s ambitious decarbonization plans.
The Lummi Nation Reservation lies in the 42nd District represented by Sen. Sharon Shewmake, D-Bellingham, who’s co-sponsoring SB 5447. The reservation is a stone’s throw away from the 40th District represented by Rep. Alex Ramel, D-Bellingham who co-sponsored its companion bill in the House.
SB 5447 waltzed through the Senate this month by a vote of 46-2.
- Neste was formerly the state oil company of Finland, and the country remains its single largest shareholder. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö paid Olympia a visit this month to talk all things green energy with Gov. Jay Inslee.
Gruver is a political writer for the Washington Observer, where this story first appeared.