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Photo: NREL

OLYMPIA - Senator Brad Hawkins’ proposed bill that promotes hydrogen-powered vehicles, was among the first measures to be approved by a Senate committee this week. The Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee on Thursday approved Senate Bill 5000, which would establish an eight-year statewide pilot project for the reduction of sales tax on purchases of fuel-cell electric vehicles.

“I’m pleased that the committee passed this bill so early,” said Hawkins, who serves the 12th Legislative District. “The bill received a positive response during its public hearing, and I’m hopeful it will continue moving forward this session. The bill is off to a terrific start but still has a way to go in the weeks ahead.”

Back in 2019, the Legislature approved Hawkins-sponsored Senate Bill 5588, which authorizes public utility districts to produce and sell “renewable hydrogen.”

“The people of North Central Washington have been leaders in clean energy for decades and new state efforts to promote renewable hydrogen and zero-emissions vehicles will help us continue our innovative work,” said Hawkins. He added, “North Central Washington is in a real position to lead the state and perhaps the entire United States on renewable hydrogen use in transportation, from production, distribution, vehicles, buses, short haul agriculture, and other opportunities locally. It’s pretty exciting when you think big about it. Our region has a long and proud history of thinking big about clean energy.”

Hydrogen can be created from a process that separates the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water. The Douglas County Public Utility District in Hawkins’ district plans to utilize its surplus hydropower to do just that, creating renewable hydrogen from excess renewable hydropower and possibly also building hydrogen fueling stations.

SB 5000 aims to extend a similar exemption on vehicle sales tax that purchasers of traditional electric vehicles receive. With the first hydrogen-fueling stations in Washington expected to be operational by 2022, the bill would allow a total of 650 vehicles to receive a 50-percent sales tax exemption in fiscal years 2023 through 2029.

Even though hydrogen vehicles are newer to the market and slightly more expensive due to having not been in mass production nationwide, they have shown tremendous promise given how quickly they refuel and the limited infrastructure required to get the fuel to the station.

Hawkins said his bill would help establish important parity between fuel-cell electric vehicles and traditional plug-in electrics.

“In our efforts to promote carbon-free vehicles, our state policies should be ‘technologically neutral’ so that we can give ourselves varied opportunities to reduce emissions and not unintentionally bias ourselves in the process,” Hawkins said. “Similar to diesel and gas, maybe there will always be multiple fuel sources for next-generation cars or maybe someday hydrogen vehicles will be the preferred choice.”