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…)
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|
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:
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 email@example.com. And if you have a blog idea or would like to be a featured guest author, please email us to get started.
Carbon Washington’s core mission includes developing policies and raising awareness about climate solutions that can appeal to both sides of the political aisle.
During the Initiative 732 campaign for a revenue-neutral carbon tax we demonstrated this by securing endorsements from Republican party leaders including:
These efforts proved that Republicans can actively support a carbon tax if provided with the information and time to understand a market-driven, non-regulatory approach to pricing carbon that doesn’t increase taxes.
The carbon tax conversation looks to be moving in a different direction this legislative session and in the upcoming initiative season, and that is OK. The climate movement, despite decades of hard work by many of us, is in its infancy and still finding its way forward. While Carbon Washington remains steadfast in its desire to put a meaningful price on carbon, we have also started examining other approaches to achieve carbon reduction that can attract bipartisan support.
One such idea that caught our attention last year was 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.
You can learn more about the environmental benefits of biochar by reading further in this blog. But first we want to describe our recent efforts to educate our state lawmakers about the benefits of producing and using it.
This project has been spearheaded by CarbonWA board member and volunteer lobbyist Greg Rock. Over the past year he organized a Sequestration Workgroup of over 40 scientific and academic experts, which researched and evaluated biochar and other potential carbon sequestration pathways. This legislative session Greg has met with over 50 legislators to explain what biochar is and how it presents a potential economic and environmental opportunity for our state, as well as advocating for a carbon tax.