Judge Dismisses Case Challenging Tribal Fuel Compacts

The Washington state-based Automotive United Trades Organization (AUTO) will appeal a judge's Nov. 25 decision dismissing their case challenging tribal motor fuel compacts. AUTO, a nonprofit trade association representing motor fuel retailers and suppliers in Washington, said the compacts send hundreds of millions of motor fuel tax dollars out of the state treasury to tribal station operators.

While the decision was disappointing, AUTO Executive Director Tim Hamilton said the group will continue to challenge the compacts. “It is a stop in the path, but from the very beginning we’ve known that this is a decision that can only be made by the Washington State Supreme Court,” Hamilton said.

The motor fuel compacts began in 2007 when then Gov. Christine Gregoire instructed the Department of Licensing to meet with representatives of the tribes and enter into agreements providing payments to the tribes of 75 percent of the state tax rate, approximately 28 cents per gallon for fuel sold at tribal stations.

Since 2007, those payments to the tribes out of the Motor Vehicle Fund have exceeded $70 million, Hamilton said. He added that  the state acknowledges that payments out of the fund holding the motor fuel taxes have been spent by the tribes on a variety of purposes other than public roads as required by the state constitution.

This most recent hearing was one of several legal proceedings in the case, which initially began in 2010. Hamilton said the timing on the appeal will depend on the Washington State Supreme Court, which could either accept or deny hearing the case. “We suspect that, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, they will accept a direct petition,” he said. 


Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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