It’s Day 36 of the legislative session. Momentum is building for a carbon tax, but the clock is running out to pass something in 60 days. The amended version of SB 6203 passed out of committee last week, and is scheduled for a committee hearing on February 14th.
Legislators have now taken the first significant step in passing a carbon tax. The substitute bill has been amended to expand exemptions for EITEs and creates a more modest price. You can read more about our analysis here. You can also learn more about the current bills by reviewing our carbon tax matrix.
Now is the time to remind your legislators to take action with a carbon tax that is effective, equitable, economically sound, evidence-based, and bipartisan.
Take action, and call your legislators
Before February 14, please call your senators. You can use Find My District to find your legislators. If you are new to calling, you can use our guide. To get started, here are the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and their phone numbers. (more…)
A substitute version of SB 6203, the carbon tax proposal championed by Governor Inslee, passed out of the Senate Energy Environment and Technology Committee on February 1st. The substitute version is a significantly modified version of the original bill. It includes a reduced carbon tax rate, additional exemptions for various industries, new funding priorities for multi-modal transportation and rural economic development, as well as requirements for utilities, claiming credits, to eliminate carbon in the electric sector by 2050. Next, the bill moves to the Ways and Means committee, where it can be further modified. If it passes the Ways and Means committee, it will move to the floor of the Senate.
We are hopeful that this bill, even with the modifications, will move forward. In particular, we welcome the new focus on rural economic development and the provision requiring utilities to decarbonize by 2050, which ensures they are using the retained revenue to reduce their reliance on coal and natural gas. However, we are concerned that the lower price and additional exemptions will reduce the carbon reduction impact of the policy.
Carbon Washington therefore advocates returning to the original $20 per ton carbon price, removing the exemption for Transalta’s coal plant and reducing exemptions for non-EITE industries, as well as additional focus on low-income and middle-class financial support. Read on for a section-by-section breakdown of the bill. The table below also outlines the major changes between the original bill and the substitute. (more…)
Washington State lawmakers are considering numerous approaches that tackle climate change in the current legislative session. (See our previous blog posts on carbon pricing and low-carbon fuels.) Among the proposals on the table are policies to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) by households, businesses and government agencies.
Current Washington EV Policies
The Washington Department of Transportation has developed a 2015-2020 EV Action Plan, which identifies 13 action items to increase EV adoption, including completion of a fast-charging network along highways and electrifying public and private fleets. This 2015 action plan aims Washington State toward the goal of placing 50,000 EVs on the road by 2020 (we are almost halfway there). Washington State also offers a sales tax exemption for the purchase of new EV vehicles, which is soon to expire (more on this later).
States with existing plans to expand electric vehicles on-the-road:
|State||Current EV Totals||EV Cumulative Goal||Goal Deadline|
What’s proposed for Washington?
Washington can learn from Kansas City by enlisting utilities as partners. In 2015, Kansas City Power and Light chose to install over 1,000 EV charging stations, becoming the first investor-owned electric utility in the nation to install and operate its own charging network. As a result, EV adoption has already nearly doubled since the network was launched. In 2015, the Washington State legislature moved in this direction by enabling investor-owned utilities to spend a limited amount of taxpayer money on charging infrastructure. This move was guided by a Policy Report from the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), which regulates investor-owned utilities. The policy report was completed in 2017, and lays out some of the ground rules. It is one of the most forward-thinking and comprehensive policy statements regarding EV infrastructure in the nation, and also sets the stage for more in-depth discussions about EV adoption. A simple step this session would be to pass HB 2897, which would allow our smaller consumer-owned utilities to join the investor owned utilities in developing transportation plans and investing in infrastructure to electrify transportation. Here are a few other EV concepts on the table:
Below, we’ve compiled a brief table comparison of the four bills we consider most relevant. You can download a PDF here.
If you have further questions, or would like some follow up information, please contact Megan Conaway at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you have a blog idea or would like to be a featured guest author, please email us to get started.
Carbon Washington’s core mission includes developing policies and raising awareness about climate solutions that can appeal to both sides of the political aisle.
During the Initiative 732 campaign for a revenue-neutral carbon tax we demonstrated this by securing endorsements from Republican party leaders including:
These efforts proved that Republicans can actively support a carbon tax if provided with the information and time to understand a market-driven, non-regulatory approach to pricing carbon that doesn’t increase taxes.
The carbon tax conversation looks to be moving in a different direction this legislative session and in the upcoming initiative season, and that is OK. The climate movement, despite decades of hard work by many of us, is in its infancy and still finding its way forward. While Carbon Washington remains steadfast in its desire to put a meaningful price on carbon, we have also started examining other approaches to achieve carbon reduction that can attract bipartisan support.
One such idea that caught our attention last year was biochar. If you’re a climate wonk — but don’t know much about biochar — don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Very few people know about biochar, despite its being an at least 2,000-year-old practice for increasing the health of agricultural soils, with the added benefit of creating long-term carbon sequestration.
You can learn more about the environmental benefits of biochar by reading further in this blog. But first we want to describe our recent efforts to educate our state lawmakers about the benefits of producing and using it.
This project has been spearheaded by CarbonWA board member and volunteer lobbyist Greg Rock. Over the past year he organized a Sequestration Workgroup of over 40 scientific and academic experts, which researched and evaluated biochar and other potential carbon sequestration pathways. This legislative session Greg has met with over 50 legislators to explain what biochar is and how it presents a potential economic and environmental opportunity for our state, as well as advocating for a carbon tax.
Three carbon tax bills have been introduced in the 2018 legislative session, as of January 18th. SB 6203 proposed by Governor Inslee is sponsored by Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Chair Reuven Carlyle (D-36th LD) and a large group of Democrats. Senator Ranker (D-40th LD) introduced SB 6096 and Senator Hobbs (D-44th LD) introduced SB 6335.
Our Carbon Tax Matrix (above | download PDF) is designed to provide an overview of the most important differences between these bills. A short discussion of some of the key policy areas follows the table. Of course, there is no substitute for reading through the actual bills if you want to fully understand the different programs and elements of each proposal.
All of these policies focus on taxing the carbon content of fossil fuels and electricity consumed within Washington State. They all exempt fuel brought into the state in vehicle fuel tanks as well as fuels and electricity exported from the state; provide a credit against carbon tax previously paid on the same fuel or electricity in other jurisdictions; and have other technical details in common. (more…)
Submitted by Mike Massa, Board Co-Chair of Carbon Washington
January 16, 2018
Thank you, Chair Carlyle and the members of the committee, for this opportunity to provide testimony in support of SB 6203.
I am writing on behalf of Carbon Washington, a statewide, nonpartisan, grassroots organization focused on accelerating the transition to a vibrant clean-energy economy. We advocate for policies to reduce carbon pollution in ways that are effective, fair, economically sound, and politically feasible.
We believe that pricing carbon pollution is a necessary step for reaching our state’s emission reduction goals. SB 6203 is a constructive proposal that gets many of the big policy pieces right.
This bill proposes a steadily rising carbon tax covering most of the state economy, creating a strong market incentive for all of us to use energy more efficiently and transition to cleaner sources. That price signal will also motivate both entrepreneurs and established companies to develop innovative clean energy solutions that drive economic growth. Importantly, the proposed tax rate is predictable, enabling businesses and households to plan their budgets. In addition, the scope of exemptions is relatively narrow; and the requirement for EITE’s to demonstrate a substantial impact on their competitiveness before receiving one is responsible.
If there is a Legislative consensus to spend some of the revenue from pricing carbon pollution, then we would prefer to see the funds directed mainly towards two areas: 1) offsetting the economic impact of the tax on low-income households, and 2) projects that further reduce emissions and help our communities adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. We also believe it is important to include strong planning and oversight processes to ensure that taxpayer money is spent effectively and efficiently.
SB 6203 appears to meet those criteria, though we would like to see an analysis of the projected financial impact of this bill on households in the bottom 40% by income. We encourage you to strengthen the relief for vulnerable citizens if modeling shows their net tax burden would increase under this proposal.
Finally, we encourage you to discuss ways to provide some tax relief for middle-income households, who are struggling to get by in both economically depressed areas of Washington and increasingly unaffordable urban centers.
In conclusion, we believe that SB 6203 is a good starting point for acting on the state’s responsibility to protect its people and natural resources from the threat of climate change. Thank you for considering our remarks. Carbon Washington looks forward to working with you on bipartisan clean-energy policies that enable our state to prosper.
Watch the video on TVW.