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 firstname.lastname@example.org with some more information about your background and interests.
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 email@example.com or call Samara Villasenor at 206-478-5643.
It’s the final week of the legislative session. While there was growing support for carbon taxes from the public — with multiple lobby days advocating for legislators to pass a carbon tax — we won’t get a carbon tax passed this session. SB 6203 passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment, and Technology and then the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. It had the potential to be brought to a floor vote to possibly pass the legislature with no such luck on a viable floor vote.
To assess whether the bill would likely pass a floor vote, Senators did an internal vote count. Senate leaders ultimately felt the bill fell one to two votes short. Although this shows meaningful progress, it also continues a trend of nearly a decade of inaction by our elected leaders.
Just a day after the bill died, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy officially filed its initiative for a carbon tax. They announced this news on their website. The “Protect Washington Act” aims to increase investments to accelerate the state’s transition to clean energy, restoration efforts for water and forests, and mitigation of climate change impacts on communities. The Alliance aims to get this initiative on the November 2018 ballot by gathering at least 259,622 certified signatures before early July.
Early this week, Senator Doug Eriksen filed a carbon tax bill that is very similar to the Alliance’s legal language. Unlikely to pass this session, filing a bill so similar to the initiative will generate a fiscal note, which will forecast the impact of the initiative on the state’s budget.
In 2016, I-732 was the nation’s first carbon tax initiative on the ballot. Although it didn’t pass, it led to four carbon pricing bills in the 2017 legislative session, and created the momentum for SB 6203 in the 2018 session.
Washington seems headed for a carbon tax. Opponents achieved nothing more than slowing the inevitable trajectory towards a clean energy future. We will closely watch the “Protect Washington Act” and share updates on our policy blog.
Onwards and Upwards!
The whole Carbon Washington team and guest author Myah Vasquez, a Carbon WA intern
Right now, the Washington State Senate is considering one of the strongest climate change bills in the nation in the form of SB 6203, which would price carbon and invest in natural resources and clean energy. Senator Mark Mullett is a key swing vote for this bill. Will you help us ACT NOW by calling or email Senator Mullett and asking him to support the bill?
Senator Mullett’s phone: (360) 786-7608
Senator Mullett’s email: Mark.Mullett@leg.wa.gov
Not sure you are in the 5th legislative district? We still need your help contacting your lawmakers! Use this link to find your legislators and their contact info.
MEDIA STATEMENT ON GOVERNOR’S CARBON PROPOSAL
We support effective, equitable, economically sound, evidence-based, and politically feasible carbon-reduction policies. We are encouraged by what we heard outlined in the Governor’s carbon tax proposal today, and we will continue to review and provide analysis on it in the coming days.
We believe effective climate policy requires bipartisan support, and the Governor’s proposal offers a great opportunity to begin overdue conversations on both sides of the aisle — as well as from Washington’s environmental, business and progressive groups — about how to move forward.
The legislature has already waited too long to take action on climate. As we’ve said many times, the climate won’t wait. 60 days is plenty of time for the legislature to act on this issue. We urge and expect our elected officials to demonstrate leadership and take much-needed action on climate this session. (more…)
A report prepared by Carbon Washington members and funded by the Carbon Tax Center says that loans tied to property (rather than individuals) would help propel clean energy and energy-efficiency measures — but Washington State’s constitution prohibits them.
The report is called “Washington State Climate Change Education and Policy Exploration.” The section on “Barriers to Property-Assessed Clean Energy Programs in Washington State” explains how property-assessed clean energy — or PACE — programs work.
Such programs provide “financing for clean energy and energy efficiency measures for commercial and residential buildings, in which the financing is attached to the property, not the owner. As of mid-2017, nineteen states have active PACE programs with funded projects, and another fourteen states, plus Washington D.C., have active PACE legislation.” PACE programs address a critical contributor to our carbon footprint — aging, inefficient buildings.
The report says the PACE approach has been effective. “Since 2009, commercial PACE programs have financed an estimated 1,030 projects, providing approximately $400 million in financing for energy updates. During the same period, residential PACE programs have financed over 150,000 projects through $3.7 billion in home upgrades.”
About half the upgrades deal with energy efficiency, such as HVAC systems, LED lighting, installing energy efficiency appliances, and water conservation upgrades. In second place: renewable energy upgrades (mainly solar panel installations). These upgrades dramatically reduce the energy and environmental impacts of the renovated buildings.
PACE has been discussed in Washington State, but a thorough public review of the opportunity for Washington to enact such a program has not been undertaken until now. Unfortunately, PACE financing is not available in Washington, nor is it likely to be without amending the state’s constitution. PACE attaches the loan bill to the property tax and uses the authority of the state as a financial entity to collect the loan payments. The constitution prohibits the state from acting as a creditor or a loan pass through in a provision commonly referred to as “lending of the state’s credit.”
The report’s authors consulted constitutional law experts about a potential work-around. The bottom line: “The only resolution for this structure of the program appears to be a constitutional amendment.”
The report was researched and written by Megan Conaway, Rheanna Johnston, Kyle Murphy and Blake Wedekind.
Demonstrating Support for Legislative Action – Lobby Day April 20, 2017
ACT NOW will host a carbon tax lobby day in Olympia on April 20th to urge lawmakers to recognize urgency of climate change and the growing bipartisan desire for climate action. “There are three carbon pricing bills in front of the legislature that have the potential to resolve key funding challenges — while putting the state on a path toward cleaner energy and a better future for our children and grandchildren,” says Carbon Washington’s Kyle Murphy. “To let another legislative session go by without addressing the threat of climate change would be a lost opportunity.”
Please join us in Olympia to lend your voice to this important effort. Click here to learn more and register for the event.
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.