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Alternative Fuel Requirement Deadline Fast Approaching

Alternative Fuel Requirement Deadline Fast Approaching

In 2007 the Washington State Legislature adopted the provisions of RCW 43.19.648, which required all local governments to convert their vehicle fleets to electricity or biofuel by June 1, 2015. Since the original legislation, the “Great Recession” intervened and various amendments were enacted pushing the deadline back three years and modifying some of the provisions. However, the day of reckoning is just around the corner and some local agencies are only now becoming aware of the law.

Effective June 1, 2018, all local government subdivisions of the state, to the extent determined practicable by the rules adopted by the Department of Commerce, pursuant to RCW 43.325.080, are required to satisfy 100% of their fuel usage for operating publicly owned vessels, vehicles, and construction equipment from electricity or biofuel.

Commerce adopted its rules for local governments in Chapter 194-29 WAC and defined “local government” to mean “any unit of local government including, but not limited to, counties, cities, towns, municipal corporations, quasi-municipal corporations, special purpose districts, and school districts.”

Defining What Is Practicable

All local governments are required to transition all vehicles to electricity or biofuels to the extent practicable, and WAC 194-29-030 provide further guidance regarding this issue.

WAC 194-29-020(7) defines practicable to mean:

...the extent to which alternative fuels and vehicle technologies can be used to displace gasoline and diesel fuel in vehicles, as determined by multiple dynamic factors including cost and availability of fuels and vehicles, changes in fueling infrastructure, operations, maintenance, technical feasibility, implementation costs, and other factors.

WAC 194-29-070 further defines when it is practicable to satisfy 100% fuel usage from electricity or biofuel.

Local governments using 200,000 or more gallons of gasoline and/or diesel to fuel vehicles on an annual basis (based on data from the National Transit Database) must submit an annual report to Commerce on how it is complying with this 100% goal.

Further, WAC 195-29-030(3) provides:

If a local government believes it is not practicable to use electricity or biofuels to fuel police, fire, or other emergency response vehicles, including utility vehicles frequently used for emergency response, it is encouraged to consider alternate fuels and vehicle technologies, such as natural gas or propane, to displace gasoline and diesel fuel use. Local governments that opt to exempt emergency response vehicles from these rules must notify the department as part of their annual reporting under WAC 194-29-080.

There are also regulations for assessment data and reporting (WAC 194-29-040), compliance threshold (WAC 194-29-050), technical coordination (WAC 194-29-060), compliance evaluation (WAC 194-29-070) and demonstration of progress (WAC 194-29-080).

Determining What Is Doable

For smaller agencies it may be that having a fleet of such vehicles is not practicable in the short term. If an agency reaches this conclusion, it should be prepared to explain and justify its reasoning. However, as a jurisdiction's existing, publicly owned vehicles are replaced, the replacement vehicles will need to comply with the new requirements.


MRSC’s Planning for Electric Vehicles webpage may provide some useful information to assist you. Commerce's Welcome to the Electric Drive Washington website includes many relevant links as well as a primary contact on the department staff heading up the initiative. While the webpage title refers specifically to electric vehicles, it is also where information regarding this alternative fuel legislation will be posted.

WAC 194-29-070 includes this statement:

…procurement decisions should be guided primarily through a comparison of alternatives on a lifecycle cost basis. The department will provide an analytical tool to assist local governments in their assessment of lifecycle costs.

As of April 24, 2018, Commerce is refining the analytical tool/model for analyzing life cycle cost. The department will be adding links to this tool once it is refined and uploaded to the Commerce website.

In the meantime, there are two alternative analytical models you can download; one from Commerce and one from Cadmus Group. Both models include instructions on how to use the tools. The law also permits local governments to use other models as well. 

Commerce regularly convenes an Alternative Fuels and Vehicles Technical Advisory Group (AFV-TAG) of policymakers, fleet managers, and industry to discuss the latest technology and policy trends and to exchange experiences with alternative fuels and vehicles. That group is continuing to refine the analytical tools and gather data on the use of alternative fuels. New information and updates to the model will be posted on Commerce website.

Questions? Comments

If you have questions about this or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772. If you have comments about this blog post, please comment below or email me at

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Lynn Nordby

About Lynn Nordby

Lynn’s public sector career included over 30 years in local government management and experience in virtually all municipal services including the operations of a wide variety of municipal utilities. He is now retired.