Pipeline that Inslee blamed for gas price spike has been open for nearly a month

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaking at the Thursday, July 20 news conference on steps he and Democratic lawmakers will pursue to address high gas prices. He is joined by state lawmakers and health care workers in Burien. (Courtesy Office of the Governor)

Gov. Jay Inslee last Thursday repeatedly blamed the closure of a major fuel pipeline in western Washington for driving the state’s gasoline prices to the highest in the nation.

But the pipeline isn’t shut down and hasn’t been since late June, refueling debate over how much of the recent surge at the pump is a result of oil industry profiteering versus the state’s climate policies.

Christina Audisho, spokeswoman for BP, said in an email that maintenance on its Olympic Pipeline lasted three-and-a-half days and it was fully operational by June 27. There is no maintenance underway now, she wrote.

BP’s Olympic Pipeline runs along a 299-mile corridor and is used to transport gas, diesel and jet fuel from Blaine to Portland. When it went down, AAA warned of price spikes in Washington and Oregon.

Average gas prices jumped eight cents in Washington and nine cents in Oregon on June 20, during the week the maintenance was reported, according to AAA.

In a news conference Thursday, Inslee seven times blamed gas price increases on the pipeline closure, insisting costs would fall when it resumed operation.

“That pipeline is going to come back,” Inslee said. “When it comes back, there’s a fair chance these prices can be ameliorated.”

On Friday, an Inslee spokesman said in an email their office had not been advised of the pipeline opening and that the governor’s comment on prices going down was an ad-lib.

“That was really a footnote to the fact that oil companies are making more than they ever have with no transparency around the prices they charge consumers,” spokesman Mike Faulk wrote. “That is his message.”

For the past month, Washington has consistently had the highest gas prices in the nation, with averages just shy of $5 for a gallon of regular unleaded. On Friday, it was $4.93, according to AAA.

While Inslee and Democratic lawmakers who joined him at Thursday’s press conference blamed the high costs on price-gouging by oil companies, Republicans say the cause is the state’s new cap-and-trade program.

The program requires air polluters in Washington to clean up their work or purchase emissions allowances from the state at auctions.

Allowance prices have been higher than expected, more than 2.5 times greater than the floor price. And some say companies are passing down this expense to customers at the pump.

“Blaming the brief pipeline shutdown for the highest gas prices in the nation is nonsense,” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, ranking Republican on the Senate Transportation Committee, in a statement. “Gas prices have been on a steady rise since January, and it is caused by the cap-and-trade program.”

“Drivers are bitterly complaining about it, so the governor and his allies are trying to shift the blame instead of admitting that this is what they wanted all along,” he said.

The program’s two allowance auctions have brought in more than $850 million for the state to use on programs to fight climate change and its effects. The next auction will take place on Aug. 30.

Before the program went into effect, the Department of Ecology estimated it could add from 1 to 3% to the cost of a gallon of gas, spokesperson Andrew Wineke wrote in an email. That translates to 5 to 15 cents on a $5 gallon.

Democratic lawmakers and cap-and-trade backers say oil companies are using the climate program as an excuse to raise prices and keep profit margins high.

At Thursday’s news conference, Inslee and legislators said they’ll pursue proposals to combat price-gouging and increase oil company transparency in the 2024 session.

Democrats are hoping to follow California’s lead where a new law creates an independent division in state government to monitor fuel markets daily for unethical or illegal behavior.

The division, which also has the power to subpoena oil executives, can then report any market manipulation, industry misconduct, or price gouging to the Attorney General’s Office, which can issue penalties if warranted.

California’s law also requires refineries to report maintenance schedules in advance and unplanned maintenance in real-time.

“Let’s be clear: If the oil companies actually decarbonize and meet their targets, they don’t have to pay anything,” Senate environment committee chair Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, said Thursday.

Companies must comply with emissions requirements starting next year, but they can start purchasing allowances this year in anticipation of the compliance deadline.

“What we’re seeing is a front-loading of what seems to be price-gouging,” he said.

— By Laurel Demkovich, Washington State Standard

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

  1. I am sure that oil companies are making all the profits that they can, but that doesn’t explain why Washington’s gas price are so much higher than everywhere else in the US. The bad news is that the “think tank” that accurately predicted this rise, also predicted that the cost will rise more after the next carbon auction.

  2. I would like to know much more about Washington State Standard as a reporting organization please. I’ve read of a number of 501c(3) funded organizations masquerading as “local news” organizations that actually are privately funded by “donors” who have political agenda they are pushing via slanted or biased “news articles”. Is Washington’s State Standard such an organization? Who is funding them and why should we regard them as objective? I’ve seen several of their articles in My Edmonds News recently presented as objective news. I think we should see some reporting in My Edmonds News itself and a statement from the editor addressing this reporting source. Thank you.

    1. Stephen — like us, the Washington State Standard is a nonprofit news organization. Unlike us, they are based in Olympia and have the ability to write about/cover the things we cannot — state government, politics, state issues. This is so important because news organizations have downsized or eliminated their statehouse coverage altogether, and yet that is where many important decisions are made. I am grateful that they give other news organizations permission to republish their content. While it is not our reporting, I have been monitoring their work and they have — in my opinion — been balanced in their coverage. You can learn more about the Wasington State Standard here. — Teresa

      1. Thanks Teresa. Your link and some additional research led me to conclude Washington State Standard is a reliable and objective news organization (as is My Edmonds News, I think). If anything Washington State Standard might be said to lean slightly liberal / progressive, but since I do as well I don’t see any great harm in that. There are some accusations they are influenced by their donors but I don’t find that criticism credible. And once I know more about the organization that is reporting I think it’s easier for me to assess whether their article is objective or not. Thanks for your great work keeping local journalism alive, it’s so important for our democracy. Best of luck in your partnership with the Standard!

    2. Stephen, your comments here on Washington State Standard reporting made me think about another article I commented on the other day. This other article had a headline spin that bothered me. If this is a trend it’ll be sad to myeondsnews as a news source. I’d rather see this stay small and local instead of using free, outsourced, biased (in my opinion), state level articles.

      Here is the other article I was referring to: https://myedmondsnews.com/2023/07/law-to-protect-trans-youth-in-crisis-will-take-effect-as-repeal-effort-fails/#comment-499989

      1. Mr. Marmion, I’m curious what you see as “spin” in the headline or the article. I’ve read it three times and all I see is information about the topic and who has said what about it. If the headline was, ” a well thought out law to protect the vulnerable has passed and it’s opposition failed to stop it,” that would certainly be spin and bias.. I think the headline just describes what has happened with the law and the article quotes people pro and con regarding the law. To be truly unbiased and not engaged in anything anyone can claim is spin is a really hard thing to pull off and I think Teresa does as good a job as possible to keep spin and bias out of OUR paper, except where someone states that something is their opinion.

    3. A person would be hard pressed to find any news organization is truly objective. It’s been this way since the beginning of this nation. That is why we need to continue to read and learn more instead of echoing 30 second sound bites from the evening news.

  3. We have the highest gas taxes of any state thanks to Inlee’s “green initiative”. His cap and trade program raises the wholesale cost of gas and deisel to producers who in turn pass the increase on to consumers. Inslee need only look in the mirror to find the reason for our high gas prices. Instead he makes up false stories. Bob Ferguson will be more of the same if elected Governor. It is time we have a major change at the top.

    1. Hillary is my choice for the next governor. She has a proven track record on a number of state issues, most notably wildfire prevention.

  4. King Jay, lied again to the people, price of gas wouldn’t go up. He’s either a compulsive liar or not very bright, that the oil companies wouldn’t pass that tax along. Wait for the next blast of carbon auction comes up.

    1. So glad Inslee isn’t running again. Hope there is someone like Dan Evans or Gary Locke running to protect this state.

  5. IF…a state has the highest per gallon taxes on road fuels (gasoline & diesel), is is logical that this same state would have the highest prices at the retail pump. Who is REALLY surprised?
    IF…on top of the highest per gallon taxes, a state creates a “cap and trade” program which auctions off a limited volume of “pollution” allowances, and the same industry that supplies retail road fuel must PAY at these auctions just to stay in business, who is really surprised that fuel prices are inflated? While the Administration brags on one hand that $850 million has been raised through these auctions, where does a logical person really think the money comes from? Think the companies are simply going to absorb increased costs and not raise prices? Logic says, “No!”
    Governor, you made it, you wear it. These are not unanticipated consequences.

  6. These policies basically come down to taking money from poor people and giving it to rich people. In this effectively one-party system in Washington state the same people keep voting for the same party and hoping for a different outcome including the incompetent Inslee the governor of Puget Sound.

    1. Unfortunately, he is the governor of the entire state. He doesn’t care about the effects his policies have on the people of this state. The rich, or should I say, the highly paid don’t care either. It’s the normal citizen that suffers the consequences of his policies. I have never like the man. I have met him on several occasions and he has always come across as a pompous self righteous idiot who has ascended to the height of incompetence. Glad he didn’t decide to run for another term.

  7. I used to be a knee jerk vote Democratic party person, but after what Mike Nelson and his lock-step Democratic Party of four sure votes on Council have done to this town and what our ultra left leaning Rep.s and Senator have done to our state and town, I’m totally done with the way too far Left crowd.

    But; Republicans in Edmonds and WA. State, you need to wise up. Run people who think like Dan Evans did and Janelle Cass does and I’ll vote for you as an Independent swing voter which I now am. Run people like Culp and Trump(not local, but you get the idea) and I won’t vote for you under any circumstances. The lunatic fringe members in our two party system are figuratively and literally killing us. It needs to stop.

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