The Capitol Record

State Supreme Court rules on hazardous substances tax

The Washington Supreme Court unanimously upheld the hazardous substances tax, a law approved by voters more than 20 years ago that uses revenue from the tax to clean up toxic waste sites.

Washington voters approved Model Toxics Control Act in 1988, which taxes about 8,000 different hazardous substances, including petroleum products, pesticides and chemicals. The revenue from those taxes is set aside for environmental cleanup.

Tower Energy Group, a gas wholesaler, and Automotive United Trades Organization, a trade group representing the state’s gas station owners, sued to overturn the law. They argued that the tax was a gas tax that can’t be used for anything other than highways under the state Constitution.

Justice James Johnson, writing the majority opinion, agreed with King County Superior Court’s decision to uphold the law. The state Constitution doesn’t “preclude the enactment of an additional tax on motor vehicle fuel for hazardous substances cleanup,” Johnson wrote.

Washington Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant praised the decision in a news release.

“For more than 20 years, this tax has been doing exactly what the voters of our state intended – cleaned up old toxic messes and prevented many new ones in our air and water and land. This is good for families, communities and businesses,” Sturdevant said.

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