Author: billboyd

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.

This post comes from our friends at Climate XChange, an advocacy organization based in Massachusetts that runs the State Carbon Pricing Network. Original post here.

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…)

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…)


Image result for Senate Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee
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…)

Hello, CarbonWA friends: To tell you the truth, we’ve had doubts about whether carbon pricing could move forward this session. But last night, the Senate passed a carbon tax out of committee, inspiring hope that they may well be up to the task!

We are encouraged by the action yesterday in the legislature. There is a broad, bipartisan consensus that carbon pricing will cut pollution, accelerate clean energy, and honor our obligation to future generations. We urge our elected officials to show leadership by moving this bill forward swiftly. We need to ACT NOW.

Read on for more analysis, and check out the photos from the hearing and from a team of talented climate leaders who stopped by Sen. Reuven Carlyle’s office on Lobby Day.

Carbon tax passes out of committee (!)

At 8 p.m. yesterday evening, the Senate Energy, Environment, and Technology (EET) Committee voted to pass a modified version of Gov. Inslee’s carbon tax (SB 6203) bill out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation. This is just the first step in what will be a lengthy process, but we are feeling a little bit like Joe Biden after Obamacare passed … so forgive us when we say “this is a big $%@^ing deal.” (more…)


100% for Climate Day

Hello, CarbonWA friends: Read on to learn about a little-known bipartisan climate approach, upcoming events, and our response to a Dud of a Seattle Times article! But first, a huge thanks to the roughly 200 people who attended the climate lobby day last week, the dozens more who called their legislators to support it remotely, and special thanks to Audubon Washington, Climate Solutions, and many other groups who helped to put on the event.

Biochar: climate legislation with 12 Republican and 12 Democratic sponsors

While most of our energy has been focused on carbon pricing, we’ve also been spearheading an effort to raise awareness around biochar and carbon sequestration. Board Member Greg Rock, who is leading our biochar effort, worked with Legislators Shea (R) and Fitzgibbon (D) to introduce HJ 4014, a joint memorial in support of biochar. If you’re a climate wonk — but don’t know much about biochar — don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Very few people know about biochar, despite its being an at least 2,000-year-old practice for increasing the health of agricultural soils, with the added benefit of creating long-term carbon sequestration. Check out our recent blog to learn more about biochar’s role in the fight against climate change and the bipartisan interest in biochar. You can also watch the recent work-session (video here and slides here) to learn more!

 (more…)

EV car at charger

Washington State lawmakers are considering numerous approaches that tackle climate change in the current legislative session. (See our previous blog posts on carbon pricing and low-carbon fuels.) Among the proposals on the table are policies to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) by households, businesses and government agencies.

Current Washington EV Policies

The Washington Department of Transportation has developed a 2015-2020 EV Action Plan, which identifies 13 action items to increase EV adoption, including completion of a fast-charging network along highways and electrifying public and private fleets. This 2015 action plan aims Washington State toward the goal of placing 50,000 EVs on the road by 2020 (we are almost halfway there). Washington State also offers a sales tax exemption for the purchase of new EV vehicles, which is soon to expire (more on this later).

States with existing plans to expand electric vehicles on-the-road:

State Current EV Totals EV Cumulative Goal Goal Deadline
Washington 24,624 50,000 2020
Rhode Island 421* 43,596 2025
Vermont 943* 34,896 2025
Connecticut 2,957* 155,105 2025
Maryland 5,000* 299,392 2025
Massachusetts 5,475* 303,814 2025
Oregon 11,400 50,000* 2025
New York 12,000* 851,855 2025
California 258,000* 5,000,000** 2030

*Reported totals for 2015
**On January 26, 2018, Governor Brown announced an
executive order that would increase California’s goal of 1.5 million EVs by 2025 to 5 million EVs by 2030.


What’s proposed for Washington?
Washington can learn from Kansas City by enlisting utilities as partners. In 2015, Kansas City Power and Light chose to install over 1,000 EV charging stations, becoming the first investor-owned electric utility in the nation to install and operate its own charging network. As a result, EV adoption has already nearly doubled since the network was launched. In 2015, the Washington State legislature moved in this direction by enabling investor-owned utilities to spend a limited amount of taxpayer money on charging infrastructure.  This move was guided by a Policy Report from the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), which regulates investor-owned utilities.   The policy report was completed in 2017, and lays out some of the ground rules.  It is one of the most forward-thinking and comprehensive policy statements regarding EV infrastructure in the nation, and also sets the stage for more in-depth discussions about EV adoption.  A simple step this session would be to pass HB 2897, which would allow our smaller consumer-owned utilities to join the investor owned utilities in developing transportation plans and investing in infrastructure to electrify transportation. Here are a few other EV concepts on the table:

  • Extend the sales tax break for EVs (which is currently set to expire in early 2018)
  • Initiate higher quotas for state fleets and statewide EV goals
  • Offer cost-sharing incentives and/or mandates for electrification of public transportation
  • Ensure availability of EV-ready parking near affordable housing, multifamily housing, and commercial buildings

Below, we’ve compiled a brief table comparison of the four bills we consider most relevant. You can download a PDF here.

If you have further questions, or would like some follow up information, please contact Megan Conaway at megan@carbonwa.org. And if you have a blog idea or would like to be a featured guest author, please email us to get started.

EV Bills at a Glance