Category: News

Hello, CarbonWA friends: The movement for a price on carbon in Washington State has put a few points on the board! Read on to learn more, and, don’t forget that I-1631 is gathering signatures right now — so if you want to get involved, go directly to the campaign website and review our analysis to learn more about the policy.

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New UTC Rules Require Utilities to Include Price on Carbon 

In Washington State, our private utilities (Puget Sound Energy, Avista, and PacificCorp) are regulated by a body called the Utilities and Transportation Commission or UTC. Two former UTC commissioners actually sit on the CarbonWA board. The UTC’s job is to ensure private utilities follow the law and don’t take advantage of consumers, among other things. Utilities must have their rate increases and many other financial decisions impacting consumers approved by the UTC. And utilities are required to undertake a long term planning process that is overseen by the UTC (known as the Integrated Resource Plans or IRPs). The UTC has just determined that future IRP’s MUST include a price on carbon (of $40 per ton) as part of their economic analysis. This decision isn’t legally prohibiting the utilities from building fossil fuel plants in the future. But, the UTC is clearly telling utilities: if you build a fossil fuel plant that isn’t profitable with a price on carbon, we won’t consider that a prudent investment for which consumers should be on the hook.

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Hello, CarbonWA friends: The movement for a price on carbon in Washington State has put a few points on the board! Read on to learn more, and, don’t forget that I-1631 is gathering signatures right now so if you want to get involved go directly to the campaign website and review our analysis to learn more about the policy.

 

New UTC Rules Require Utilities to Include Price on Carbon 

In Washington State, our private utilities (Puget Sound Energy, Avista, and PacificCorp) are regulated by a body called the Utilities and Transportation Commission or UTC. Two former UTC commissioners actually sit on the CarbonWA board. The UTC’s job is to ensure private utilities follow the law and don’t take advantage of consumers, among other things. Utilities must have their rate increases and many other financial decisions impacting consumers approved by the UTC. And, utilities are required to undertake a long term planning process that is overseen by the UTC (known as the Integrated Resource Plans or IRPs). The UTC has just determined that future IRP’s MUST include a price on carbon (of $40 per ton) as part of their economic analysis. This decision isn’t legally prohibiting the utilities from building fossil fuel plants in the future. But, the UTC is clearly telling utilities: if you build a fossil fuel plant that isn’t profitable with a price on carbon, we won’t consider that a prudent investment for which consumers should be on the hook. The new rule won’t make a big impact on existing coal plants, but it will make it more likely that when existing coal plants eventually shut down, those plants will be replaced by a greater mixture of renewables and a lesser mixture of fossil fuels. This is an important regulatory shift that will reduce carbon.

We supported a bill last session that would have created a carbon price requirement in utility plans, and while the bill had bipartisan support, it wasn’t able to get the attention it needed in the short session to pass. We are pleased the UTC decided it didn’t need to wait any longer to take responsible, sensible action on climate change. Furthermore, we take this as evidence that our shared work to advance climate action and a sensible price on carbon is gaining traction.

   

More Carbon Pricing Media & Next Steps

The carbon tax push from the last legislative session was nicely pulled together by S&P Global News Defeated in Legislature Carbon Tax Advocates Eye Washington Ballot Initiative”. The piece features quotes from CarbonWA and our partners including, “Despite failing to pass, 6203 set in motion a process that will lead to a price on carbon in the next two years” from Senator Reuven Carlyle, and “elements of the business community decided they’d rather spend millions fighting ballot initiatives rather than locking in a compromise now” from CarbonWA. From I-732, to SB 6203, to I-1631 to the recent UTC decision, carbon pricing is becoming closer and closer to a reality in Washington.

After the lengthy initiative campaign from 2014-2016, and two legislative blitzes last year and this year to advance a price on carbon, many key members of CarbonWA are slowing down for a moment to catch our breath. Don’t worry if we are a little bit quieter over the coming months as we evaluate the political landscape ahead and chart our path. If you want to get more involved as a volunteer running our non-profit, assisting with blog posts, or community organizing please email kyle@carbonwa.org with some more information about your background and interests.

Other Climate News!
Want to get caught up on recent climate news? We suggest checking out the following stories:

Hello, CarbonWA friends: May the 4th be with you! We hope you channel the energy from Star Wars (or your favorite movie) to help make climate action happen!

Making change beyond Earth Day 

Another Earth Day has come and gone with many familiar pledges and suggestions circulating to hike more, get a reusable shopping bag, or start recycling. That’s all well and good, but, with climate change growing ever more urgent, we wanted to share some ideas for how you might seriously step up your climate-action game. We often think about climate and environmental actions as fitting into two categories: “me” actions and “we” actions. A “me” action is personal action you can take (like giving up beef or changing how you commute), without the help of others, that can help to reduce your personal impact. “Me” actions are important because they help you to live your values, and because they can encourage others in your personal network to follow suit. But no amount of bicycling and light bulb changing will stop global warming if we don’t also take “we” actions. “We” actions are political actions you can take, with the help of others, to get our entire economy shifted to be more sustainable and earth-friendly. A strong climate pledge would be to take one bold “me” action and one bold “we” action this year. (more…)

Statement from Carbon Washington’s Board of Directors 

Climate change is the critical issue of our time. Carbon Washington supports Initiative 1631 because we have a moral responsibility to protect our children and grandchildren by tackling climate change now to leave them a cleaner, healthier, and safer world.

Our state legislature has failed to enact any of the serious carbon reduction proposals that were introduced over the past 10 years. We are running out of time to prevent the extreme climate impacts that will occur with continued reliance on fossil energy. The unusual weather events our region experienced in some recent years provide a preview of those impacts. We saw record-low winter snowpack combined with record-high summer heat stress on forests, crops, fish, and workers; warmer and more acidic coastal waters; and more severe storms driving flooding, landslides, erosion, and polluted runoff. The citizens of Washington simply cannot afford to wait any longer for their elected officials to take action on this threat to our economy, communities, and way of life.

A strong, steadily rising price on carbon pollution is the most effective, and our preferred, policy tool for reducing emissions. I-1631 would enact a meaningful price on carbon while funding projects to advance clean energy resources, energy efficiency, electrification of transportation and heating, sequestration of carbon in natural lands, and other actions that reduce emissions. I-1631 would also fund important investments in forest and water resources to help adapt to the impacts of climate change in our state.

We are pleased that the sponsors of I-1631 have put a serious plan on the table. Carbon Washington has provided extensive analysis of the measure and how it compares to previous carbon pricing proposals (SB 6203 and I-732). Though we have concerns about some of the policy choices made by the authors of I-1631, we believe that, on balance, the measure is worth supporting. As we said many times in our campaigns to pass I-732 and subsequent carbon tax legislation, we cannot afford to let perfect be the enemy of good.

Washington State is well positioned to show the nation that carbon pricing can both reduce emissions and help create the prosperous clean energy economy of the future. We encourage Washington voters to sign the petition to put I-1631 on the November ballot.

 

Media inquiries: Email communications@carbonwa.org or call Samara Villasenor at 206-478-5643.

Hello, CarbonWA friends:

We Support I-1631! 

After another round of legislative inaction, a ballot initiative is moving forward to put a price on carbon. We’ve taken a close look at the policy, collected feedback from our supporters, and held a robust internal discussion about the initiative. As a result, we are moving forward in support of I-1631. You can see our full statement below. But, before you make up your own mind, we’d encourage you to review our recent in-depth analysis of the initiative (including a comparison matrix, exploration of wonky details, and a carbon reduction ranking).

While the 1631 policy differs in some ways from the approaches we’ve seen in recent years, we also see it as an outgrowth of the grassroots energy that put the first carbon tax in the nation on the ballot and has since led to a surge of serious legislative proposals. I-1631 also has the extra boost of a very favorable ballot title ruling from the Attorney General’s office (something the I-732 effort struggled with), and a recent upholding of the title against legal challenges from the Association of Washington Business and a conservative activist (who we don’t know much about except that his website logo is of sasquatch toppling the Olympia capitol). Read on for the reasoning behind our support of I-1631. (more…)

Hello, CarbonWA friends: There’s a new initiative in town — which we’ve broken down for you — and two fantastic climate conferences are coming up in April! Don’t fret if this is our last newsletter for a few weeks. Some of our key leaders are heading out on vacation and the next big climate move will be seeing if I-1631 goes forward to the ballot.

Carbon pricing policy analysis (including I-1631!) 

While the carbon tax bill that we supported in the legislature, SB 6203, passed out of two committees in the Senate, stalled, and ultimately failed to pass this year, the carbon pricing debate has never been more alive. Initiative 1631, which would create a carbon fee, has been filed, and the core sponsors (including The Nature Conservancy, Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, and some of Washington’s tribal nations) are preparing to move forward. If you want to get involved with the initiative, check out this page. We’ve put together an in-depth analysis of the initiative and how it compares to the major previous proposals we’ve seen, including SB 6203 and I-732. Our analysis blog includes a comparison matrix, exploration of wonky details, a carbon reduction ranking — and we even included pictures and graphs! So please check out our blog. You can also download PDFs of the blog post, the policy matrix, and the price trajectory chart.

We are pleased that the sponsors of I-1631 have put a plan on the table, but we will wait to see it move forward with signature gathering before commenting further. The measure has until early July to get the signatures to qualify. Take a look at the analysis and then let us know what you think about the initiative. Email Kyle@carbonwa.org to send us your input!  (more…)

Statement from Kyle Murphy, Executive Director, Carbon Washington

After a decade of inaction on climate change, our elected leaders have a duty and obligation to enact public policy to reduce carbon. It is clear that people in Washington want action. The legislature’s continued failure to do so is disturbing.

SB 6203 made history as the first carbon tax in the country to be voted out of two legislative committees, and by coming within a single vote or two in the Senate. The support from environmental, tribal, and business interests was groundbreaking and builds on considerable progress in Washington to elevate a conversation about climate change and a price on carbon. While I-732, the nation’s first carbon tax initiative put to Washington voters in 2016 didn’t pass at the polls, it was the basis for four carbon pricing bills introduced in the 2017 legislature, and created an opportunity for the legislature to seriously consider SB 6203 in the 2018 session.

Climate action in Washington is coming. Opponents of this bill achieved little beyond a temporary delay in our inevitable trajectory toward a clean energy future. Carbon Washington will now focus its efforts on putting a price on carbon this year at the ballot or next year in the legislature.

Future generations are counting on us, and we will continue to mobilize citizens, provide leadership, and advocate for effective, equitable, economically sound, evidence-based, and politically feasible policies to address climate change.

Hello, CarbonWA friends: Thanks for tuning in for another chapter in the carbon tax saga!

Carbon Tax Passes Ways and Means Committee (!)

The carbon tax bill that we’ve been supporting, SB 6203, passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday evening. While this vote contained fewer fireworks than the Environment Committee session, it was no less important. You can watch the executive session here.

This vote comes on the heels of our virtual lobby day which we are confident had a positive impact. A huge thank you to the 25 volunteer phonebankers who helped us generate over 1,000 recruitment calls, resulting in many hundreds of constituent calls to legislators urging them to take action on climate and put a price on carbon!

The next step for the carbon tax is the Rules Committee, which can also accept amendments and send the bill to the Senate floor. If the bill passes out of the Senate, it has to repeat the process in the House unless it gets wrapped up in the budget process which plays by expedited rules. At this point, we can’t say what the ultimate fate of the bill will be.  (more…)

Hello, CarbonWA friends: WE NEED YOU TO CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS NOW!

Since the beginning of the 2018 legislative session multiple climate bills, including a carbon tax, have been introduced, a carbon tax passed out of the Senate Environment Committee, the Seattle Times endorsed a carbon tax moving forward, the papers have been flooded by letters to the editor about climate, John Kerry stopped by to help out, and we cosponsored a climate lobby day with over 200 attendees. We are making progress.

But, we cannot let up. It is over halfway through the legislative session and right now the Senate Ways and Means Committee is considering a price on carbon in the form of SB 6203. But, they haven’t scheduled a vote and it’s not clear if they are going to take action. Our best guess is that they are counting votes in the Senate before moving it further along so we need to call every legislator to rally support for the bill. We need your help.

Today we are going to ring the phones off the hook in Olympia to make sure our lawmakers know they need to act on climate to maintain the support of their constituents! (If you are reading this after Monday . . . please still call!) (more…)

 

Hello, CarbonWA friends: Read on for a lobbying action on 2/19 and more carbon tax news! But first, let’s pause to take stock of this moment. 2018 feels different compared to previous years we’ve worked on climate issues. There is still a risk that nothing will happen, but it feels like the debate has shifted, permanently, in favor of action. We’d encourage you to put on Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A Changin’ and let the lyrics set the tone for the rest of the legislative session.

ACT NOW virtual lobby day!

February 19th: On Presidents’ Day, CarbonWA and our partners in the ACT NOW coalition are putting on a virtual lobby day. Please join us in demanding action on climate and carbon pricing at this critical time. You can participate in 3 ways: You can call your legislators from home; you can join us at our office sometime between 2 and 6 p.m. to call your legislators, socialize, and call other volunteers to remind them; or travel to Olympia and meet with your legislators in person (we’ll have CarbonWA reps in Olympia to help you, but we determined that our resources were better used generating calls from all over the state, so we aren’t putting on a full-fledged in-person lobby day). You can also check out 350’s youth climate lobby day if you are traveling to Olympia.

**Please Sign Up Here To Join The Virtual Lobby Day!**  (more…)