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
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.
The mission of Climate XChange is to provide policymakers and advocates with cutting edge information on market-based solutions to climate change.
By Jonah Kurman-Faber, Communications and Policy Fellow, Climate XChange
Carbon pricing efforts are not just picking up steam in New England, a similar fight is underway in the northwest. On Thursday afternoon Washington’s state Senate Committee on Ways & Means approved a substitute bill of Governor Jay Inslee’s carbon tax legislation. Inslee has been a climate champion in the Northwest, pushing multiple carbon pricing initiatives since 2015 despite substantial resistance from the legislature and courts.
His 2018 plan has been in constant flux since it was introduced last month but has achieved significant victories this month, namely passing both the Senate committee on Energy, Environment, and Technology and the Senate committee on Ways and Means. But discussions around this bill are still running hot – various groups and officials have come out with hard stances for/against the various design factors of the bill, particularly the list of industrial exemptions. As such, here is a quick dive into the bill’s current status, what industries are exempt, and whether these exemptions make sense.
The Current Bill
Passing this bill through the Senate Committee is a huge victory – to our knowledge it is the first time that a carbon fee was voted on and passed by subnational politicians – but there is still a long way to go. The most recent version calls for a price tag of $12 per ton of carbon starting in 2019, increasing annually by $1.80 per ton starting in 2021 until it reaches a cap of $30 per ton in 2030. This is a more modest proposal than the Inslee’s original plan, which started at $20 per ton, had a 3% percent increase in price each year with no cap.
With regards to exemptions, the bill recognizes that “some industries are energy-dependent and trade-exposed and thus have independent incentive to be energy efficient. These industries are exempt from carbon taxation in order to allow them to remain globally competitive and ensure these industries and jobs remain in Washington.” The idea makes sense on paper, as long as it’s done fairly – the bill proposes that the department of commerce establish an objective numerical process for evaluating industries that qualify for exemption.
However, the bill subsequently lists a whopping 67 industries, listed by their North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes, that are guaranteed exempt status “notwithstanding the criteria established”. In addition to these industries, the bill also exempts “transition coal power”, which is catered towards TransAlta’s few coal-fired power plants in the state that are still transitioning to natural gas. This raises concerns for local advocates – why establish an objective numerical process for determining exemptions, only to prematurely exempt large swaths of polluting industries? (more…)
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…)