The election results from initiative 732 demonstrate that in Bellingham, Tacoma, Seattle and other Washington cities, support for climate action via carbon price is strong and politically viable. It prompts the question, why not start here? Launching carbon pricing as a patchwork within Washington State would both show the viability of the policy and create an incentive to level the playing field with a statewide policy. Washington cities, with Seattle in the lead, have also pledged themselves to serious carbon emission reductions by joining the Paris Agreement and other agreements, despite having made little progress towards the goals thus far. (more…)
Hello, CarbonWA friends: Soon, we’ll be sharing our policy goals for next year and updating you on developments with other environmental groups like the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Tribes, and the business community as we all work toward pricing carbon. In the meantime, read on for policy updates and climate news!
Puget Sound Energy Paying off Colstrip by 2027!
Puget Sound Energy, in a settlement agreement has agreed to pay off its debts on Colstrip by 2027, significantly earlier than the original 2045 payoff date. This is a useful step towards shutting down Colstrip units 3 and 4 (Units 1 and 2 are already scheduled to shut down in 2022). This agreement doesn’t ensure that Colstrip will shut down in 2027, and UTC commissioners will still need to approve the deal, but it makes it much easier to achieve an earlier shutdown of Colstrip units 3 and 4 because PSE will not be under as much pressure to continue to run the plants to pay off existing debt after 2027. (more…)
Week 1 (May 1-7): Learn about the various proposals and think about what is important to you. .
The carbon tax bills: The Seattle Weekly was among the first to cover Senator Palumbo’s carbon tax bill, introduced on April 20th. Carbon Washington provided an analysis of this bill (SB 5930). Earlier, in January, Investigate West pointed to a possible sticking point in the governor’s carbon tax proposal. Any proposal will likely undergo significant changes during the budget negotiation, so don’t count out any bill just yet. This was signaled in the joint article by Crosscut/Investigate West published earlier in session.
The bill sponsored by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon and backed by the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (HB 1646) would spend the money on a clean-energy transition, and would not direct any funds towards education. It received a partial support from 350 Seattle,which wanted amendments to the bill “to include stronger emission-reduction goals that are included in HB 1372.” CarbonWA has taken a neutral position; our testimony on the bill is here.
Senator Hobbs’ bill (SB 5385) was introduced early, and is currently in the Senate Energy & Environment committee. It would direct half of the money to K-12 transportation. The remaining share is spread out for stormwater funds, habitat restoration, energy investment, and highway maintenance. Senator Palumbo’s bill, SB 5930, in many ways is an updated version of Hobbs’ bill. You can read our analysis of Palumbo’s bill here.
Governor Inslee’s proposal (SB 5127) is currently in the Senate Rules Committee. The majority of revenue is directed towards K-12 education, and the remaining is spread out for “energy efficiency, electrification of transportation, and other activities that will further cut greenhouse gas emissions in the state.” Audubon WA supported both the Governor’s and Alliance bills. 350 Seattle did not endorse this bill, “based on its limited funding for green energy, its failure to address climate justice, and because of its exemption for the state’s only coal-burning power plant.” CarbonWA is generally supportive of this bill but is concerned about the coal exemption.
Don’t get too fixated on a single proposal, because it is likely that these bills will be heavily modified if any one of them is to pass. Instead, think about the most important factors for you and be prepared to communicate them to your legislators. For CarbonWA, the important thing is that any bill be effective, equitable, and politically feasible.
On the national level, carbon taxes are gaining momentum. Although Republican lawmakers are hesitant to introduce legislation, many have vocally supported the idea of a carbon tax, such as the one modeled by the Climate Leadership Council. This approach received commentary in the Washington Post and by Charles Komanoff from the Carbon Tax Center. This presents an opportunity to think about what’s important in a policy. With an initiative process, like I-732, we avoided many of the political tradeoffs. All of these articles highlight the difficulties that a carbon tax will face through the legislative process.
Simple Explanation: SB 5930, introduced by Senator Guy Palumbo, would implement a carbon tax of $15 per ton, rising $2.50 per year to an eventual rate of $30 per ton. Imported electricity, agricultural fuel, and EITE’s (energy-intensive, trade-exposed manufacturers) are exempt. There is a phase-in for residential natural gas and the electric sector. Electric utilities can redirect up to 75% of the carbon tax they owe to fund carbon reduction projects. The measure will devote $400 million to fund existing programs that are currently paid for out of the general fund, which would free up budget room for K-12 education. The remaining revenue is divided up between forest, water, low income, and carbon reduction programs. The measure also rescinds regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, such as the Clean Air Rule, in exchange for enacting the carbon tax. (more…)
HB 1646 Testimony to the House Environment Committee
Submitted by Mike Massa, Co-Chair of Carbon Washington
March 14, 2017
Thank you to Chair Fitzgibbon, and the members of the committee, for this opportunity to provide testimony regarding HB 1646.
I am speaking 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. Carbon Washington was the chief sponsor of Initiative 732, a revenue-neutral carbon tax measure that went before state voters in November 2016.
First, we want to recognize and thank the organizations and individuals who have put in tremendous work over many years to develop HB 1646.
We applaud the sponsors for designing a carbon tax mechanism combining broad coverage with a steadily rising price that is tied to the state’s emission goals. Economists across the political spectrum agree that such a policy is the most effective and least cost way to reduce carbon pollution. We believe this should be Washington’s primary clean energy transition strategy.
We also strongly support the inclusion of a cash rebate for low-income households to offset the impact of the carbon tax. We would even support expanding the size of that program to avoid raising costs for state residents who are already burdened by a regressive tax structure.
The inclusion of investments in forest management and water resources, if appropriately administered, will help mitigate the impacts of climate change in Washington, such as wildfires, drought, and floods.
Despite those positive features, Carbon Washington cannot fully support HB 1646 without some improvements.
While we support the goals of the clean energy programs, a spending package of this size deserves additional scrutiny at a time when the state is facing major funding needs in education and mental health, and when many communities are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession. This portion of HB 1646 lacks sufficient accountability and oversight to ensure that taxpayers’ funds are spent both effectively and efficiently with broad benefits. We would like to see stronger accountability measures in these programs as well as a re-evaluation of the spending priorities to include other pressing state needs, like education, or broad tax relief for lower and middle income households. We would also welcome the incorporation of policy priorities from conservative and business leaders to make sure our climate policies work for everyone in the state.
Thank you again to the Chair and committee members for your consideration, and to the backers of HB 1646 for putting forward a concrete plan with many good elements. Carbon Washington looks forward to working with you on bipartisan clean-energy policies that enable all people of our state to prosper.
Carbon tax friends, be proud of what we’ve accomplished
Together, we accomplished something historic by putting the nation’s first statewide carbon tax before the voters. We showed that there is a strong desire for common-sense climate action in Washington State, and we influenced the national conversation on climate policy. We ran an honest, transparent, and positive campaign focused on addressing the climate and equity problems facing our society. We did all of that thanks to you.
The votes are still being counted, but we’re on track to get well over 1 million votes in support of a policy that would have created one of the strongest carbon prices in the world and been the biggest improvement in the fairness of our state’s tax system in 40 years. We led the biggest voter education effort on climate change ever in the state. We knocked on over 100,000 doors, made over 1 million phone calls, and published more than 140 letters to the editor in every type of media outlet. Our campaign raised more than $1.5 million from thousands of donors with a median donation of $50.
We formed a terrific partnership with Audubon Washington and with grassroots organizations across the state, especially chapters of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (both in Washington State and as far away as Hawaii!); regional climate action groups like Climate Action Bainbridge, Cascadia Climate Action, Olympic Climate Action, Oregon Climate (now Our Climate), and Divest UW; faith organizations including theClimate Action Ministry at Eastshore Unitarian, Interfaith Works, and Washington UU Voices; clean energy groups like Seattle Electric Vehicles, Seattle Transit Blog, and Solar Installers of Washington; and many others, including Conservation Hawks, the American Sustainable Business Council, AIA Seattle, and the American Planning Association’s Washington Chapter.
During the last legislative session, our proposal brought all of the major stakeholders to the table for the first time. We later gained endorsements not just from Democrats but also from prominent Republicans like Rob McKenna, Slade Gorton, Mark Miloscia, Steve Litzow, and Joe Fain—and even when we didn’t get endorsements we managed to neutralize much of the opposition from businesses and conservatives.
And we made a huge splash in the national and international media, generating over 200 articles about the campaign including in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, and appearances on the PBS NewsHour (twice!), HBO Vice News Tonight (new here!), and on the Years of Living Dangerously series (episode coming soon!).
We have more work to do
We must continue the fight against climate change. Global carbon concentrations continue to increase, global average temperatures continue to rise, and with Trump in the White House it will be even more important to pursue climate policies at the state and local level that can reduce emissions and show the way forward for the nation and for the world.
What comes next
With your help, Carbon Washington will continue to support effective, equitable, economically sound, and politically viable solutions to carbon reduction. We are determining what form the organization will take going forward and the policy actions we will pursue in the new political environment. We are open to working with any and all individuals or groups who share our goals.
We are thinking through our next steps, and we want to hear your thoughts on the election and where this movement that you helped build should go next. We are organizing a debriefing event along with a statewide conference call. More details will be provided in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we want to hear your feedback and thoughts. Please contact us at email@example.com.
You may also be interested in meeting with your state legislators during House Committee Days December 1-2 to convey your concerns about climate change. Executive Committee member Greg Rock will be there, so you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this more.
It is grassroots supporters like you who made this groundbreaking effort possible. You are the energy that powers Carbon Washington.
Thank you for your dedication to the campaign and your hard work over the past years! Our work is just beginning…
From the whole Carbon Washington team