Washington state threatening to probe alleged profiteering by oil, gas companies

Profiteering is defined as the act or activity of making an unreasonable profit on the sale of essential goods.

Published: September 12, 2023 10:51pm

Updated: September 12, 2023 10:52pm

(The Center Square) -

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants legislation to investigate the possibility that fossil fuel companies are profiteering from high gas prices in his state.

“Well, people are tired – are sick and tired – of oil and gas companies profiteering on this,” Inslee said last week in answering media questions following a tour of facilities at Hockinson Heights Elementary School in Brush Prairie. “You know, we’re finding companies have profits much higher in our state than other places, and we need to get to the bottom of that. It’s unacceptable to be profiteering.”

Profiteering is defined as the act or activity of making an unreasonable profit on the sale of essential goods, especially during times of emergency.

“So I will be introducing legislation to do that,” the governor said.

The Center Square reached out to the Governor’s Office for more specifics on the possible legislation, asking what evidence Inslee had of profiteering on the part of oil and gas companies and if the state’s carbon tax played any role in Washington having the second-highest gas prices in the nation – more than $5 per gallon – just behind California, according to data from AAA.

“I was asked the same question & quoted in the Center Square not long ago saying the governor doesn’t deny CCA [Climate Commitment Act] has price impacts, but that it’s one piece of a much larger pie,” Mike Faulk, Inslee’s spokesperson, told The Center Square in an email.

Per the Climate Commitment Act passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Inslee in 2021, Washington’s cap-and-trade program requires emitters to obtain “emissions allowances” equal to their covered greenhouse gas emissions. Similar to stocks and bonds, these allowances can be obtained through quarterly auctions hosted by the Department of Ecology.

Ecology has held three quarterly carbon auctions and one Allowance Price Containment Reserve auction so far this year, bringing in more than $1.4 billion.

“Record profits under record prices and no sense of responsibility for the harm they do the environment and our communities sounds like profiteering to me,” Faulk continued.

As for the proposed legislation, he added, “We don’t have a final proposal yet. Sen. [Joe] Nguyen is the legislative lead in crafting it.”

The Center Square reached out to the Democratic state senator from White Center but did not get a reply.

Larry Behrens, communications director at energy advocacy organization Power The Future, did respond to The Center Square’s request for comment about possible profiteering legislation in Washington.

“Governor Inslee trots out a tired trope because he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his failed leadership,” Behrens said in an email. “For years, Governor Inslee has been a part of the U.S. Climate Alliance and pushing a radical agenda to deliver results like we see today: high prices and economic failure. Jay Inslee cheered as President Biden shut down production all over the country and now he wants to pretend those actions have no consequences. If Jay Inslee wants to see who is to blame for high prices, I’d be glad to supply him with a mirror.”

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