Washington state wants to have a say in new tires

OLYMPIA — The next time you go shopping for replacement tires, the state of Washington could have greater sway over what’s on the rack. That’s provided the Legislature agrees to a request from the state Department of Commerce for the authority to regulate tire efficiency.

Auto owners may want to pay attention because the low rolling resistance tires that regulators want to promote typically cost more than budget tires. But over the lifetime of those tires, the average driver could save hundreds of dollars on gasoline.

“There are very few other transportation policies in the short-term that can reduce emissions by this magnitude,” said Senior Energy Policy Specialist Steven Hershkowitz during a state Commerce Department webinar Wednesday. The Commerce Department hosted the public webinar to describe its energy policy priorities and requests ahead of the 2024 legislative session, which convenes on Jan. 8. The full text of the proposed tire regulation bill had not been introduced as of Wednesday.

Government standards for vehicle tires traditionally have been set at the national level. But California legislators a few years ago gave their state energy department authority in this arena as part of a larger campaign to increase fuel efficiency and thereby reduce tailpipe emissions.

In Olympia, the Inslee administration shares those climate goals. So now, the state Department of Commerce is working with friendly legislators to get similar regulatory authority over tire standards. Hershkowitz said Washington wants to work in partnership with California on the issue rather than just be a bystander when potentially market-changing rules roll out.

The California Energy Commission is currently in the midst of a rulemaking proceeding to set minimum standards for rolling resistance along with setting up a rating system to help consumers compare tire efficiency.

The new state standards would apply to replacement tires for passenger cars and light trucks. If adopted, the California rules would begin with what Hershkowitz described as a fairly easy-to-achieve standard in 2026 and then gradually get more stringent after 2028.

Neither California nor Washington proposes to regulate the original tires installed by manufacturers on new cars. Hershkowitz also said that specialty tires sold in low volumes, such as off-road tires, would also probably be exempt. The California agency projected that the vehicle fuel efficiency gains drivers would achieve through its tire standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1 million metric tons per year in the state.

In California, the rubber industry and tire dealers raised concerns that likely will come up in Olympia as well.

“I maintain that these advancements should not come at the expense of California’s independent tire dealers and their customers,” wrote Mike Manges, editor of the Modern Tire Dealer trade journal, in an editorial.

“I still believe that a mandate could not only limit consumer choice, but also limit a dealer’s ability to sell what he or she wants — based on the customer’s budget and preference,” Manges continued. “Not all customers will be able to afford higher-priced tires that can meet or exceed whatever rolling resistance target the CEC will require.”

In answer to a question posed over Zoom on Wednesday, Hershkowitz said the interested public will have opportunities to influence the targets Washington may set if the Legislature grants his agency regulatory authority over tires.

“There would be a significant public engagement,” Hershkowitz said.

The proposed tire efficiency legislation is separate from a state Department of Ecology push to phase out a tire preservative that can kill salmon when tiny, toxic tire particles wash off roads into waterways. Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would pick up the baton and possibly regulate the tire chemical nationally.

________

Tom Banse writes for the Washington State Standard (https://washingtonstatestandard.com), an independent, nonprofit news organization that produces original reporting on policy and politics.

More in Politics

House, Senate release spending proposals

Supplemental budgets to be negotiated

Plan to cap how much landlords can raise rent moves ahead

Statewide caps on annual rent increases could take effect in… Continue reading

State House approves unemployment benefits for strikers

Workers who are on strike or locked out of their… Continue reading

Chapman explains votes

Rep. Mike Chapman was among the few Democrats who voted… Continue reading

Democrats Franz, Randall stockpile cash in battle for US House position

Cash is flowing into campaign coffers of two Democrats dueling for an… Continue reading

Ruling: Trump to stay on primary ballot

Eight voters argued Jan. 6 actions made him ineligible

Should police be allowed to engage in high-speed pursuits if they just suspect someone is engaged in a crime? The state Legislature is set to debate that issue following verification of a citizen initiative that gives police more leeway in decision making. (Mary Murphy/Washington State Journal)
State Legislature to debate high-speed police pursuits

Initiative 2113 would amend law to be ‘reasonable suspicion’

State officials turn to schools in opioid fight

Legislation would require fentanyl-use prevention education once per year

Eight voters challenge Trump on Washington state ballot

Kitsap judge to hear arguments Tuesday

Nisqually Tribal Chairman Willie Frank III, right, discusses the newly designed statue mockup of his father, Billy Frank Jr., with other attendees at Wednesday’s unveiling. A full-scale, bronze statue of Billy Frank Jr. will be placed in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., next year. (Laurel Demkovich/Washington State Standard)
Design unveiled for Billy Frank Jr. statue at U.S. capitol

Bronze rendering will honor Native American fishing rights activist

Members of the House, including Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Gig Harbor, and Rep. Eric Robertson, R-Sumner, at front, walk into the House chambers during opening ceremonies on the first day of the legislative session at the Washington state Capitol on Monday in Olympia. (Lindsey Wasson/The Associated Press)
Legislature kicks off with a housing focus

Fentanyl deaths, climate change top topics as well