Hawkins’ hydropower tax bill approved by Senate

The Washington State Senate tonight approved Senate Bill 6012, a hydropower tax bill sponsored by Sen. Brad Hawkins that helps acknowledge hydropower’s important role in providing clean energy. Improved tax treatment for hydropower has been a key priority for Hawkins and Chelan County Public Utility District, a 12th District hydropower utility, for over a year.

Senate Bill 6012, passed with a 39-9 vote and included a compromise amendment co-sponsored by Hawkins and Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) to provide an exemption from the state portion of the sales tax for utilities that refurbish their hydroelectric plants with oil-free turbine blades, likely to improve environmental conditions by reducing oil loss into the Columbia River.

Hawkins was thrilled to advance SB 6012. The first version of the bill was introduced last year as an effort to promote equal tax treatment between hydropower clean energy and non-hydro clean energy, such as wind and solar. “Securing passage of a hydropower tax bill from the Senate was a ‘heavy lift’ and probably one of the most challenging efforts of my legislative career,” said Hawkins. “In the end, after over a year of discussions involving different ideas, my colleagues and I were able to come to an agreement in the Senate.”

Hawkins credits the amendment language to Chelan County PUD General Manager Steve Wright and his staff, who have been working alongside Hawkins since the beginning of the 2019 legislative session on the issue of hydropower tax treatment. “Chelan PUD has been with me on this issue since the beginning, and it’s been quite a learning experience for everyone involved. I’m hopeful that maybe we’ve settled on a hydro tax idea that can make its way all the way to the governor’s desk,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins added that SB 6012’s legislative journey is far from over because the bill will also need to clear the House of Representatives. The bill’s revenue impacts – approximately $2 million per year – must also be accounted for in the state supplemental operating budget. Rep. Keith Goehner of the 12th District introduced an oil-free hydro bill earlier this session to begin the hydro tax conversation in the House of Representatives. Hawkins said successful passage of the idea will be a “12th District effort” because hydropower’s success in the Legislature will require the legislative district team’s full support every step of the way.

“Last year, the Legislature approved a 100-percent clean electricity bill, which was heralded among my colleagues and promoted nationally, but our state can’t achieve such a level of clean energy without our renewable hydropower. Last year’s bill extended tax benefits to all of the other clean energy sources, so I’m thankful my colleagues recognize the need to include hydropower as well,” said Hawkins.

Last December, Hawkins was awarded the Washington PUD Association’s “Legislative Champion” Award for securing the passage of SB 5588 (PUD renewable hydrogen) and for his efforts last session toward promoting hydro tax treatment in SB 6012.