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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com 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