Hydrogen fuels takes forward steps in Legislature and on PUD land

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A 2020 Toyota Mirai outside the Washington Capitol — the kind of hydrogen-fuel vehicle that would be cheaper under a pilot program in legislation sponsored by State Sen. Brad Hawkins.

WENATCHEE — It’s a big week for hydrogen fuel initiatives in North Central Washington.

On Wednesday, a bill brought by 12th District State Sen. Brad Hawkins passed the Senate unanimously, setting up an eight-year reduction of sales tax of vehicles that use hydrogen fuel cells. That legislation now goes to the House.

It’s the second hydrogen-related feather in Hawkins’ cap after one of his previous bills became law last year, allowing public utility districts to use their excess electrical capacity to produce and sell industrial hydrogen.

Taking advantage of that law, the Douglas County PUD will break ground at 11 a.m. Monday on its planned Orondo hydrogen production facility, on Highway 2 near McDougall Fruit. The PUD bought the 28-acre orchard property for $2.1 million in 2019.

Once online, the PUD plant will use electricity to separate hydrogen from oxygen molecules in water, to capture the hydrogen as a saleable commodity.