If you believe that Washington should take additional action to combat pollution and climate change – and according to recent polling, the vast majority of Washingtonians do – you probably accept that with action there is cost. The trick is to develop solutions that effectively address the problem while minimizing the cost and, as far as possible, allocate the cost fairly according to how much each of us contributes to the problem.
Those are the guiding principles behind Initiative 1631, the Protect Washington Act, for which supporters are currently gathering signatures to put the measure on the ballot this fall.
Motivating large polluters to clean up
Starting in 2020, I-1631 will discourage large polluters from emitting greenhouse gases by requiring them to pay a fee of $15 for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit. The fee, which will apply to energy generated from coal, oil, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel fuel, will increase at a rate of $2 per year until Washington’s 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goal is met and the state’s emissions are on a trajectory to comply with the state’s 2050 goal.
In order to avoid undue job losses, certain energy-intensive and trade-exposed businesses will be exempt from the fee.
Investing in job-creating solutions
The fee is expected to generate roughly $1 billion annually, which will be used as follows:
- 70% will be invested in energy efficiency, renewable energy including wind and solar, and in storage and carbon sequestration. Plus, 15% of the 70% will be directed to help people with low incomes transition to clean energy resources.
- 25% of the revenue will be used to increase the resiliency to climate change of our forests and waters.
- The remaining 5% of revenues will help fund a Healthy Communities program that will assist tribal communities and others that are highly impacted by forest fires, sea level rise, and other consequences of climate change.
These investments will translate directly into jobs. A recent report just released by Senator Maria Cantwell’s office shows that Washington’s clean energy economy now provides more than 83,000 jobs solar, wind, hydro, energy efficiency, and micro-grid and smart grid solutions.
To assure that revenue from the fee is being used effectively, a public board will oversee implementation of the initiative and will be assisted by appointed investment panels that will review and recommend how funds should be invested. The Washington legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee will monitor and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of the law.
Sharing the benefits, sharing the burden
I-1631 is the product of a collaborative effort by energy and environmental advocates, labor representatives, and highly impacted communities to address a crisis that puts us all at risk, but for which, to some degree, we’re also responsible.
Because we all use energy, at least some of which is derived from fossil fuels, we’re all contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. So we’ll see some, but not all, of the fee passed through in the form of slightly higher prices for gas and electricity. These increases will be modest, but they’ll be fair since they will reflect the contributions to emissions that we make through our energy choices.
In short, there is no free lunch, but when you look at the modest cost in the context of the prizes to be won – effective action against climate change and investment in jobs, commerce, and Washington communities – it’s clear that I-1631 can be and should be an important component in Washington’s transition to truly a clean energy system.
Sign the petition to put I-1631 on the ballot
The “Yes on I-1631” campaign is also looking for donor and volunteers. Please do what you can. To learn more: