Author: kylem

A newly released study exploring the impacts of initiative 1631 by the NERA economic consulting group, funded by the No on 1631 coalition, should not be used by lawmakers or voters when evaluating Initiative 1631. Below, a handful of essential issues with the study are explored. Additional technical flaws exist as well, but are not addressed in this analysis.

Betting Against Renewable Energy

A significant unknown facing climate policy advocates and detractors alike is that rate at which cleaner, greener technologies will become affordable and reliable enough for widespread use. Most models address this by modeling multiple scenarios that try to capture this uncertainty.

The NERA study is underpinned by a significantly conservative forecast of future clean energy prices and deployment, produced by the EIA. The EIA is, in general, regarded as a respectable and transparent outlet for energy-related data. However, their future forecasts have come under severe scrutiny as most of their renewable forecasts in recent years have failed to track with actual reality. As one peer reviewed examination of the EIA forecasts put it, “most of EIA’s projections for renewables sharply under-projected generation or capacity.” You can dig into this more here, but a sharply conservative forecast for future renewables growth will skew every result that follows it, and the failure of the NERA study to also present an ‘optimistic’ case, leads to an imbalanced result. Which leads us to our second concern: (more…)

Remember: Ballots are due November 6th and do not require a stamp! You can mail your ballot, drop it off in a drop box, or download a new one if you can’t find it. Join your friends and neighbors in voting this election!

Elect Sharon Shewmake

Carbon Washington Endorses Sharon Shewmake (D) for State Representative in Washington’s 42nd District, Position 2
“As a mother, professor, economist, and climate policy expert, Sharon Shewmake is the ideal candidate to bring forward smart policy, pragmatism, and a commitment to climate action to Olympia,” said Kyle Murphy, Executive Director of Carbon Washington. “Carbon Washington has been actively supporting Shewmake’s race to replace incumbent Vincent Buys because he does not appear to be paying attention to climate change at all.” 

Big Picture

Sharon supports a price on carbon and would work to make it happen if elected. She wants the revenue to help grow the economy for workers and even wants to see it linked to pre-school education policy, in the long term freeing up more investment from criminal justice spending. In the nearer term Sharon is also interested in green building codes.

Local Focus

In Whatcom Sharon is concerned about the impact on shellfish and salmon, increased flooding of the lower areas, air quality from forests burning, and the continued impact of climate change on Mt. Baker’s snow pack.

“I want climate legislation that grows our economy and cuts carbon pollution,” said Shewmake to Carbon Washington. “If Washington State can be a leader, other states will see what is possible and copy us. This is our pathway to addressing the climate crisis as a nation.”

Learn more about Sharon and support her campaign directly here.

To protect future generations from the harms of a warming climate, and to create a prosperous clean energy future, we need to elect leaders like Sharon Shewmake.


DONATE to Carbon Washington to help us elect Smart Climate Leaders

Visit the entire Climate Voters Guide here.



Disclosure: Carbon Washington Action’s top 5 donors are Richard Wesley, Yoram Bauman, Philip Jones, Yates Wood and McDonald, and Rock Ventures LLC.



Remember: your ballot doesn’t need a stamp. If you lost your ballot, you can download a new one from King County here, Whatcom County here, or get a new one from Snohomish County here,  or Pierce County here. Your friends and neighbors are voting this year, join them and vote for the climate!

Yes on Initiative 1631

CarbonWA is in support of Initiative 1631, which would place a fee on carbon emissions and invest in clean energy and climate change mitigation. But, we encourage you to do your own research. You can read more about the initiative in a detailed analysis we produced earlier this year or on the campaign’s website.

Top Races for State House of Representatives

The candidates highlighted below are smart climate champions, but they also represent the most competitive races where the chamber’s ability to move climate legislation hangs in the balance. Some great legislative leaders, like Joe Fitzgibbon, are safe bets to win re-election so we didn’t highlight them up front as top races. Our full endorsements list (bottom) includes all of our House endorsements.

42nd LD – Sharon Shewmake: We’ve already told you about Sharon. She’s a longtime CarbonWA supporter, an environmental economist, a mom, a professor, an activist, a carbon pricing supporter – it doesn’t get any better than this! She’s running neck and neck for state house in the 42nd LD against Vincent Buys, who is a vocal opponent of climate action, is embroiled in a Cambodia scandal, and wh” You can support Sharon here. GO SHARON!

 44th LD Jared Mead: In last legislative session’s heated carbon pricing debate, Jared was in the thick of it as an aide to Senator Guy Palumbo. Jared’s a millennial who is savvy and committed on climate issues. He got more votes in the primary than the incumbent, Republican Mark Harmsworth, who hasn’t been a climate leader. Jared’s the dad to that small orange dog too. GO JARED GO! Support Jared here. 

35th LD – David Daggett: David is a PhD engineer who helped out with the March for Science. He supports climate action but understands the needs of his rural district. He told us, “Putting a price on CO2 pollution will encourage its reduction and will also create new business opportunities. His opponent, Drew MacEwan, took a trip to Demark to learn about clean energy but used that to conclude we don’t need a price on carbon. David is running competitively in this lean-Republican district. Help David win here!

47th LD – Debra Entenman: Debra Entenman is a solid pick. She’s smart and knows her district after a long stint as Congressman Adam Smith’s aide. She believes we need to take action, stating unequivocally “I believe climate change is real, caused by the use of fossil fuels, and can be slowed or reversed by legislative policies.” This statement alone puts her head and shoulders above her opponent. This one’ll be a nail-biter. Support Debra here.

Top Races for State Senate

Here are some of the races that will determine whether climate action is within reach and whether the chamber can move climate legislation forward. As with the House, we didn’t highlight some of the easy choices. These races will be key to electing a climate majority to the Senate.

30th LD – Mark Miloscia: Mark Miloscia has been another important Republican voice on climate change. He’s been very engaged in finding bipartisan, smart, accountable carbon reduction policies. If we had more leaders like Mark, Washington would’ve solved this challenge by now. Mark supported I-732, has been engaged on carbon pricing, and has supported net-metering. We especially appreciate Mark’s focus on good government and accountability. Mark summarizes his approach in saying, “Only by working together, in a spirit of compromise, quality, and accountability, will we develop a carbon reduction plan that truly works.” Climate voters will make a good choice if they return Mark to the Senate – help him win here!

In the 30th, democratic challenger Claire Wilson is also a reasonable choice. We also endorsed Claire because even though she has less direct experience on climate than Mark, she’s made addressing climate change a priority. Claire said in her questionnaire, “I will advance environmental bills to reduce our state’s emissions, support clean industries, and mitigate the damage caused by effects of climate change we are already seeing — like wildfires and decreased air quality throughout the state.” You can support Claire here. 

26th LD Emily Randall: This race presents one of the top prospects to expand the climate majority in the Senate. Emily is running in one of the most competitive districts to replace retiring Senator Jan Angel. Angel was not engaged on climate issues, and we aren’t confident that Emily’s opponent Marty McClendon would be either. Emily had this to say: “We need to address our greenhouse gas and carbon emissions — keeping our air and water clean for our salmon and orcas, our children and our grandchildren.” You can support Emily here.

47th LD – Joe Fain: Senator Fain has been one of the most consistent Republican voices on climate change. When discussing his approach with us, he said “Combating climate change requires sober thinking and reasoned action based on the best available science.” Specifically, Joe endorsed I-732 and has since sponsored a bill that would require utilities to factor the cost of carbon emissions into their long-term plans.

Update (10/25): We remain very concerned about the sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Fain made on Sept. 27, after he received our endorsement. Sen. Fain has requested an investigation, which we believe is the appropriate course. We will continue to monitor the situation.

The Rest of Our House & Senate Endorsements




CarbonWA’s Take

1st Rep

Shelley Kloba

Rep. Kloba has been a reliable environmental vote. On climate, she says, “I support common-sense approaches to reducing our fossil fuels.” Vote Kloba!

4th Rep

Mary May

If she wins, May promises to “sponsor and support legislation aimed at incentivizing clean and renewable energy production.”

7th Rep

Michael Bell

Bell told us, “Climate change cannot be denied…We have the technology to accomplish this and stimulate the economy at the same time. Why would anyone oppose these actions?” We couldn’t agree more – vote Bell!

9th Rep

Matt Sutherland

Matt sold us on his race in this video of a debate where he calls out the incumbent Joe Schmick for his anti-science climate denial. On climate, Matt says, “We have an opportunity and an obligation to the future.” Matt also served in the military and studied clean energy at WSU.

25th Rep

Jaime Smith

Smith says about climate change, “waiting is not an option when our children’s lives are on the line.” Vote Smith.

26th Rep

Joy Stanford

Stanford says “I believe Washington should be at the forefront of the clean energy economy.” She support public-private partnerships, and wants to focus on job creation and reducing traffic.

27th Rep

Laurie Jinkins (Pos 1)

Jake Fey (Pos 2)

Incumbents Fey and Jinkins have been reliable climate advocates and voters in the 27th should send them back to Olympia.

32nd Sen

Jesse Salomon & Maralyn Chase

Incumbent Chase backed I-732 and has been an independent voice within her party for climate action. Salomon is challenging her as a fellow Democrat, with solid experience in local government and with climate change as a priority. Voters looking for daylight between Chase and Salomon might find ST3 (Chase is skeptical of ST3’s bang for the buck) and density defining issues.

34th Rep

Joe Fitzgibbon

Joe Fitzgibbon has been the strongest representative on climate issues in Olympia. He’s provided leadership on carbon pricing and low carbon fuels. If we could clone him (will someone work on that?) and send 10 more Joe Fitzgibbon’s to Olympia, we would.  

34th Sen

Joe Nguyen

Joe Nguyen is a good choice here. His summed his stance in saying, “I am proud to support a carbon tax in Washington State and to ensuring that implementation of policies are done in an equitable manner.”

35th Rep

James Thomas

Thomas put together a competitive primary in this lean-red district. He’s an economic planner who would be an upgrade on climate issues from the current incumbent, Griffey.

39th Rep

Ivan Lewis

Lewis supports carbon pricing and says, “we are faced with a moral crisis” when it comes to climate change.

44th Sen

Steve Hobbs

Steve Hobbs isn’t afraid to buck his party, and we value his independent streak. At times he’s frustrated us, like when he withheld a committee vote for carbon tax legislation, but he is the stronger choice for the 44th. Hobbs pledges in his questionnaire “to advocate for a sustainable transportation infrastructure including investments in multi-modal and commute-trip reduction programs.

45th Sen

Manka Dhingra

Senator Dhingra deserves a full term after winning a narrow special election last year. She co-sponsored carbon tax legislation in her first year and is a strong transit supporter.

48th Sen

Patty Kuderer

Challenger Rodney Tom might be someone who could bridge partisan divides on climate, but he has so far failed to speak up about the issue. Kuderer, on the other hand, co-sponsored carbon tax legislation last session. Kuderer has our support.

48th Rep

Amy Walen

Walen has a wealth of experience in Kirkland city government (including helping pass a plastic bag ban), and has concrete ideas to advance climate action. Go Amy!

A few final thoughts to leave you with: We didn’t endorse in every single legislative race. In some cases, this is because we thought both the incumbent and the challenger were middling on climate issues, so there wasn’t a distinction to draw. In other cases, it was because a potentially good candidate didn’t complete the questionnaire (a requirement) or engage with our process. That’s fine, because its a lot of work for candidates to get all the questionnaires done, but it explains some of our curious omissions like Reuven Carlyle and Gerry Pollett. Other climate leaders aren’t up for re-election. Our endorsement list also tilts to the Democratic side mostly due to participation rates among the candidates. A number of Republicans who have engaged with us on climate issues, like JT Wilcox, just chose not to pursue our endorsement. We are still excited to work with them next year. We also received some interesting questionnaires from candidates in both parties, like Republican Chris Gildon in the 25th, that weren’t sufficient for an endorsement but who we want to work with and who just might earn our endorsement in the next round.

Disclosure: No candidate or committee sponsored or participated in the creation of this voters guide or subsequent advertisements promoting it. Carbon Washington Action’s top 5 donors are Richard Wesley, Yoram Bauman, Philip Jones, Yates Wood and McDonald, and Rock Ventures LLC.

The Youth Climate Trial that has meandered through Washington’s court system has stalled for the moment.

The case, pursued by eight young petitioners and supported by attorneys from the Western Environmental Law Center and Our Children’s Trust, asserts that the state is failing to protect young people from climate change impacts, and that young people have a right to a stable climate under the Washington State Constitution and the Public Trust Doctrine. King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott has dismissed the case as of August 14. However, the plaintiff’s plan to appeal, so we don’t expect this to be the last word on the case. Read more about the legal background and the trajectory of the case:  

Despite the failure to compel state action, the case holds a number of lessons for climate advocates as we advance policies to reduce carbon emissions.  (more…)


2018 State Legislative Endorsement Questionnaire

Smart Climate Action Leader Endorsements: Carbon Washington is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change. We support legislative candidates that are committed to bipartisanship and who push for carbon reduction policies that are effective and economically efficient. Endorsed candidates will be highlighted through Carbon Washington’s 5,000+ email list, targeted social media posts, and may be eligible for additional financial and campaign support. Carbon Washington supporters recently raised over $1,000 for a legislative candidate and we intend highlight additional legislative leaders in the coming months.


Instructions: Please complete the following questions and email them to Carbon Washington at and/or BY 9/7/2018. Candidates can download the endorsement as a word document here: Candidate endorsement questionnaire


Candidate Name
Position Sought
Campaign Contact Information Email:

Main point of contact:


Question Y/N
Do you agree that climate change is primarily caused by burning fossil fuels?
Do you believe legislators should develop policies to responsibly reduce carbon emissions?
The vast majority of economists agree a price on carbon is the most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. Do you support putting a price on carbon?


  • If you support a price on carbon, what is your preferred design or your most important considerations (ie revenue neutrality, cap & trade, worker retraining, etc.) ? If you do not support carbon pricing, what do you think is the best approach to reducing emissions?


  • Are there other carbon reduction/clean energy policies you support?


  • Do you see addressing climate change as fitting within your party’s core values, and if so, how?


  • If elected, what is one thing you would do to try to advance carbon reduction policies at the state, local, or national level?


  • Are there specific issues facing your district that are connected to climate change? Can Carbon Washington provide technical or political help in solving these challenges?


  • Please provide a short public quote regarding your position on passing policies that reduce carbon emissions and advance clean energy that we can share with our supporters.


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 with some more information about your background and interests.

Other Climate News!
Want to get caught up on recent climate news? We suggest checking out the following stories:

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?

More information on SB 6203 can be found here and suggested talking points can be found here.

Senator Mullett’s phone: (360) 786-7608

Senator Mullett’s email:

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.

Gov. Inslee at podiumThe Carbon Washington team was excited to see Governor Inslee kick off the legislative session this week by introducing a carbon pricing plan. The Governor has gone “all-in” on this proposal, using the bulk of his State of the State address on Tuesday, January 9, to speak to it and issue a passionate challenge to legislators to take serious action on climate this session:

“...we must recognize an existential threat to the health of our state, a threat to the health of our children, and a threat to the health of our businesses that demands action. That threat is climate change.”


On balance, we find that Governor Inslee’s proposed bill gets many of the big pieces right. We are still reviewing the details but we hope and expect to see it gain momentum this session. The policy has four major components:

  • Charges a $20 per/ton carbon tax, +3.5% per year.
  • Allocates 50% of the revenue to carbon reduction and clean energy.
  • Allocates 35% of the revenue to natural resources.
  • Allocates 15% of the revenue to workers and low-income people.

The Governor’s proposal would tax carbon pollution from from all coal, oil, and gas sources in the state, as well as electricity from those sources including imported electricity. (Montana’s coal plants that power Puget Sound Energy would be taxed, for example.) Public transit and marine fuels are covered by the carbon tax, with agricultural diesel exempt. The price would start at $20 per ton beginning in June of 2019. Starting in 2020, it would increase by 3.5% plus inflation each year, without a price cap. The tax has broad coverage and is imposed upstream. That may sound familiar, as it closely replicates Initiative 732.

The tax is estimated to generate “$1.5 billion in new revenue over the first two years and an estimated $3.3 billion over the next four years,” which will be allocated into three main areas — clean energy investments, water and natural resources resilience, and transition assistance. Of the revenue, 50% would go to investments in clean energy transition — a priority would be given to projects that benefit low-income communities, communities of color and indigenous communities — but there is not a specific overlay or percentage that is required to be spent on low-income communities. An additional 35% of the revenue is designated for water and natural resource resilience, including projects to reduce stormwater pollution, build fish culverts, improve forest health and fire management, and prevent flooding. The final 15% of the revenue would go to worker transition and low-income support through existing programs, including income assistance, affordable housing and transportation development, rural economic development, and training and education subsidies. The plan also features strong accountability measures in the form of clear agency authority, metrics and cost abatement data around the spending programs, and citizen oversight. The table below breaks it down:

Revenue distribution

Amounts Program Type Goals
50% Clean Energy Transformation Funds investments in clean energy, particularly in low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color. Nonprofits, businesses, and local governments will be eligible to apply for funding for verified carbon-reduction projects.
35% Water and Resource Resilience Funds for stormwater and flood risk management, fish culverts, forest fire prevention and management. Also a focus on water resource reliability and conservation.
15% Transition Assistance Funds rural economic development, low-income assistance, affordable housing and transportation development, worker re-training (via subsidies through existing organizations), and identification of disproportionately impacted communities. Training programs will focus on renewables, SmartGrids, next generation hydropower, renewable forest products, and health and fire risk management.

What’s in this for the business community?

The Governor’s carbon tax would exempt exported fuels and electricity, as well as Washington’s only coal plant, TransAlta, which is due to shut down completely by 2025. The bill also exempts Emission Intensive Trade Exposed (EITE) industries such as aluminum production and pulp-and-paper mills, but uses a particularly narrow definition of an EITE, compared to some past carbon tax bills that granted broader exemptions. Industries would have to provide proof of harm to be exempt from the carbon price — for example, facing something like a significant competitive disadvantage. Any exemptions granted would have to be re-evaluated every three years by the Department of Commerce.

This bill seeks to find a reasonable middle ground that protects manufacturers without exempting businesses that don’t meet the definition of Emission Intensive and Trade Exposed. The EITEs are also eligible to receive funds from the clean-energy programs (both the state-run program and the utility retained revenue program) to reduce their carbon emissions.

The proposal also has some special rules for utilities called Utility Retained Revenue. This is a top priority for utilities who lobbied for this concept last year. Under this program all utilities (including public utility districts) can retain the carbon tax they owe in a seperate account for clean energy and energy efficiency programs. For example, Avista could use up to 100% of the taxed amount by designing a plan to use that money for clean energy, weatherization, and low-income programs. Each utility would have to design, and get UTC or Department of Commerce approval of, a Clean Energy Investment Plan that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a manner beyond existing legal obligations (each additional dollar would have to yield an additional carbon reduction).

Furthermore, 20% of the Clean Energy Investment Plan money would have to be dedicated to low-income energy assistance such as discounted rates and weatherization, EV charger distribution, rebates, and other support. Each utility’s plan would not be allowed to earn a rate of return and would have to be updated every three years. This area in particular is one part of the bill we want to examine more closely to ensure that funds are used in a responsible way.

Finally the Governor’s bill also requires the Department of Commerce to develop a “Deep Decarbonization” plan within the first two years. This section would require establishing an advisory committee that would come up with a statewide plan to reduce our emissions by 80% (or more) of 1990 levels by the year 2050. The Office of Financial Management, Department of Ecology, UTC, and WSU extension program would assist an advisory committee made up of “local and state governments, businesses, public interest organizations, energy industry, and citizens” in developing this plan.

Additional thoughts

  • The bill would prohibit any other localities in Washington State — like cities or counties — from passing their own carbon tax (for more on that approach, check out our analysis here).
  • Electricity bought by utilities for which the source cannot be sufficiently determined would be taxed at a rate of one metric ton of CO2 for every megawatt-hour.
  • Many biofuels are exempt, including biogas, biodiesel, and renewable diesel. 
  • The State Board for Technical and Community Colleges would be granted some of the transition funds in order to promote clean energy jobs by establishing three new “Centers of Excellence” devoted to renewable energy development and integration; development of smart-grid power and next-generation hydropower; and sustainable forestry, including sustainable products, forest health and forest fire management.
  • This policy is missing an explicit low-income rebate, although it permits spending to assist low-income people through “existing cash rebate programs.”

Hilary FranzAs the 2018 Washington State legislative session begins, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz has sent an open letter to House and Senate leaders in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy, Environment and Technology, highlighting the threat climate change poses to our state lands and waters and calling for our state to adopt a carbon policy that puts a price on carbon and adheres to Four Resilience Principles.

Commissioner Franz stated in an interview on KING 5 News that we are already seeing significant impacts of climate change on our land and water.  Franz said that while looking at a price on carbon, a mechanism for implementing this policy must ensure that we don’t have an undue impact on those people who produce our food, keep our forests safe and healthy, and protect our waters.

Franz emphasized that we need to implement a carbon policy in Washington State that strengthens the health and resilience of our lands, waters, and communities and invests in carbon sequestration.  This policy must look at our natural resource areas, particularly our farms and forests, as critical areas that will actually help reduce carbon emissions.  We must invest in making our lands and waters more resilient in the face of climate change, which is already impacting us and will only get worse.

In particular, Franz emphasized that we must address the concerns and impacts on rural communities in Washington, whose economies are heavily dependent on natural resources threatened by climate change.  They are also a crucial part of the overall state economy — from the lumber we use to the food we all eat. By recognizing the needs of rural Washingtonians, Franz made a strong case for the bipartisan nature of climate action, as climate chaos will impact all of us.

Explaining why we need to put a price on carbon, Franz pointed out that we are already incurring enormous costs because we are not preparing for the future impacts of climate change. In her letter, she said, “While it is true that Washington is small in global emissions, it is also true that we provide significant national and global leadership when it comes to innovation, technology, and sustainable resource management—all of which are needed to combat climate change.  We are home to rich forests, soils, and aquatic lands that offer climate change solutions that could stretch well beyond our state borders.”

Franz went on to say, “the threats to our healthy and productive lands are real.  We are already late in responding, and we cannot afford to wait for others to bring leadership to this challenge.”  Franz believes that Washington State’s leadership is needed and timely, and she urges rapid action.

As we move into 2018, and the legislature and our communities around the state contemplate this critical and enormous challenge, Franz and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offered the following four principles intended to “guide and inform the statewide debate on carbon policy” — which they believe are critical to successfully addressing climate change and carbon policy.

  1. Tackle the root cause — carbon pollution — and invest in reduction efforts
  • Establish greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) policies, such as pricing or capping carbon, that effectively reduce pollution;
  • Focus investments on activities with a strong nexus to reducing carbon pollution; and
  • Minimize unintended effects of carbon policies on Washington residents as well as energy and trade-intensive businesses such as the pulp and paper, agricultural, and natural resource-dependent industries.
  1. Strengthen the health and resilience of our lands, waters, and communities
  • Address impacts we are already seeing from climate change and that we will only see more of in the future, including wildfire risk, forest health issues, ocean acidification, sea level rise, flooding, landslides, drought, heat waves, and extreme weather;
  • Implement long-term strategies to support the health and viability of rural, natural resource-dependent communities, including investments to improve wildfire suppression and forest health, support water storage and reduce drought, and expand renewable energy systems; and
  • Increase the viability and resiliency of agricultural lands to ensure our state’s agricultural economy, our capacity to produce food for future populations, and the long-term health of our soil.
  1. Accelerate carbon sequestration
  • Tap into the potential of Washington’s forests, farms, ranchland, coastlines, wetlands, riparian corridors, and soils to sequester and store carbon; and
  • Invest in statewide carbon sequestration programs that incentivize keeping working farms and forests working and maximizing carbon stored in trees and soils.
  1. Invest in and incentivize solutions with multiple benefits
  • Incentivize and invest in the management of working forests in ways that increase carbon storage, grow forest management jobs, increase soil moisture storage, increase timber value, sustain timber production, improve summer stream flows, and increase resilience to disturbance;
  • Incentivize and invest in alternative cropping systems and range management to increase soil carbon storage, increase soil moisture storage and increase resilience to drought;
  • Incentivize and invest in marine restoration efforts to address local effects of ocean acidification, increase aquatic carbon storage, and improve shellfish production and salmon habitat;
  • Invest in riverine, floodplain, and wetland restoration to strengthen resilience to floods, improve salmon habitat, increase public safety, increase water filtration and retention, and protect infrastructure; and
  • Invest in tree planning, planting, and management in cities and towns to improve air quality, increase carbon storage, improve water quality during high-rain stormwater events, improve quality of life, and decrease long-term healthcare costs.

We appreciate the leadership and thoughtful analysis that Franz and her staff at the Department of Natural Resources are bringing to the discussion. Washington State’s leadership is needed and timely.  In ongoing negotiations on climate policy, lawmakers should consider including Franz’s recommendations to strengthen the health of our land, forests, water systems and rural communities.

On January 9, Carbon Washington board member (and former UTC Commissioner) Philip Jones testified on CarbonWA’s behalf in support of HB 2338, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) bill introduced by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon. He joined representatives from Audubon Washington, Climate Solutions and the Washington Environmental Council, who also testified in support.

Philip JonesCarbon Washington is strongly supports carbon pricing, the most economically efficient policy mechanism for reducing carbon pollution, but putting a price on carbon isn’t the only strategy for reducing it.  We also support legislative action, and initiatives to create other carbon reduction policies that align with our mission. The three most common policy options for reducing carbon pollution are pricing mechanisms, subsidies, and regulations. A low carbon fuel standard is a regulation designed to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector which accounts for the majority of Washington’s emissions.

Bill Brief

HB 2338 would require the Department of Ecology to develop a regulatory program to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels to 10% below 2017 levels by 2028.  The carbon intensity of each transportation fuel type would be calculated by completing a full life-cycle analysis of the emissions associated with the production and distribution of the fuel, in addition to its use in a motor vehicle. Importantly, that analysis would take into account the carbon emissions associated with any changes in land-use, an important factor for biofuels.

Functionally, this bill grants Ecology the authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector by requiring fuel switching. The climate benefits come from increasing the use of electricity and natural gas for transportation, and from blending low carbon alternative fuels, like biodiesel, into conventional transportation fuels.

Often, when people think of LCFS, they think of ethanol, a dubious federal experiment in biofuels. But, this LCFS is more focused on electrification of transportation, requiring 25% of credit revenues to be invested in EV infrastructure, and on other verified carbon reduction fuel options. By requiring a life cycle analysis, this bill will also sort out the biofuel options that are beneficial for the climate from those that aren’t. It also creates a tradeable credit system that will allow regulated entities to monetize going “above and beyond” if they are able to reduce carbon beyond the established targets.  

LCFS in Practice

California, Oregon, and British Columbia, in addition to many countries, already have Low Carbon Fuel Standards in place. California has the oldest LCFS, which has successfully reduced the carbon intensity of their transportation fuels with nominal impacts on retail prices. The price impacts are expected to increase some as reduction targets increase; however, compliance flexibility, including a system for trading reductions, makes the economic efficiency of a well-designed LCFS quite high.  



Digging Deeper

Hopefully, HB 2338 can pass in the Legislature this year, but if not, it may be feasible as an initiative since a majority of voters from both parties support a transition to cleaner fuels in polling.

A LCFS is also potentially a very good complement to a carbon tax in Washington. In a perfect world we would have a strong economy-wide carbon tax with a relatively high price. That price would encourage lots of households and businesses to buy dramatically more efficient vehicles, particularly electric ones, while motivating deep carbon reductions in many other sectors. But realistically, when Washington does enact its first carbon tax, it is likely to start at a relatively low price. A low carbon price still motivates a lot of carbon reductions by targeting low hanging fruit in the electric sector, industrial sector, and built environment while encouraging better vehicle purchasing decisions. However, fuel switching is typically considered a higher hanging fruit and may not be significantly motivated by a relatively low price on carbon.

Combining these two policies would allow the carbon tax to efficiently reduce carbon emissions across the economy without having to design multiple sector-specific programs. Later, as the carbon price grows, the costs of the two policies do not become additive, because normal market forces gradually achieve the regulatory requirements of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and it eventually just becomes redundant, adding no additional cost. To summarize, a LCFS can begin reducing carbon in the transportation sector until a robust carbon price kicks in.


We hope the Washington Legislature will adopt HB 2338 during this session. But if lawmakers don’t act, an LCFS could be a good subject for a ballot initiative. Polling consistently shows that a majority of voters from both parties support a transition to cleaner fuels. One way or the other, we will succeed in reducing the carbon emissions that drive climate change, by accelerating Washington’s transition to a prosperous clean energy future.