WA Supreme Court: Using Gas is the Burning, Not the Transporting
People really get paid to make a most asinine arguments possible. They do this under the guise of advocacy, taking positions that are ludicrous and arguing them with a straight face, “for their client.”
Case in point: GP would get assessed a tax for use of gas within the state. The statute allows the city, but does not require the city, to impose such a tax. Tacoma did just that. GP argued that its use was in the actual burning up the gas in Tacoma, but was the transporting of the gas prior to it reaching Tacoma. You can guess how that argument went (or I can simply let you read further, and know for sure):
Instead, we look to the ordinary meaning of "use," a definitional basis also recognized in former RCW 82.12.010(2). "Use" ordinarily means to "consume." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 2523-24 (2002). Gypsum does not dispute that it consumes natural gas in its manufacturing process; therefore, it uses natural gas in the city of Tacoma as the term "use" is ordinarily understood. We hold that the tax levied against Gypsum under RCW 82.14.230(1) was proper.
In so holding, we recognize that it is unusual for corresponding state and local taxes to be triggered by different taxable events. But that is exactly what the legislature intended here, assuming Gypsum is correct that the taxable event for the purposes of the state BNG tax is the point at which the taxpayer first takes dominion and control of the gas in the state. In any case, it is clear that the legislature created the local BNG tax to stand in for a local public utility tax when an industrial user purchases its gas from a broker outside the city where it does business. The statute authorizing the tax must be construed to give effect to this purpose. If we were to apply the disputed portion of the definitional statute to Gypsum's activities, then every purchaser of natural gas could simply avoid a local tax by purchasing gas in an unincorporated area of the state, rendering RCW 82.14.230(1) ineffective to accomplish its purpose. We cannot endorse an interpretation of the statutes at issue that leads to this absurd result. J.P., 149 Wn.2d at 450.