Democratic state Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, chair of the Washington Senate's environment committee who would sponsor the carbon tax … The carbon tax bill proposes a tax of $10 per metric ton of carbon emissions, just half of what Inslee originally suggested. The room began to perk up. Some say the death of the carbon tax was easily foreseen. On the other hand, voters—most of whom aren’t economists—tend to prefer energy standards because they put the costs on those most directly responsible for carbon-emitting systems, the real estate developers and car designers. Washington state lawmakers proposed a measure on Thursday to limit carbon pollution that would be the nation's first if passed. In 2017, the state received just over 20 percent of its energy from coal or natural gas, and its only coal power plant is on track to close. ” ‘Everything’ is not a choice.”, In the weeks after the death of 1631, climate activists took little time to grieve, refusing to declare defeat. state’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gasses and account for 27 percent of the carbon pollution in Washington. After voters turned down a 2018 ballot initiative for a carbon tax, Republican state Sen. Curtis King said it was too soon to revisit the issue. We're a nonprofit (so it's tax-deductible), and reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget. In the weeks after, as they ate dinner or got ready for work, they’d dissect the results: Is Washington turning conservative? Upstairs, in a dimly lit ballroom, community organizers and other supporters of the ballot measure had already gathered. Terms of Service apply. But what killed the carbon tax was not a blind, party-line vote: the measure failed in red and blue strongholds alike. “The essence of strategy is making choices,” Harvey said. I made my way through the streets, my thoughts scattered, and before I could really think through all I’d just learned, a gust of wind caught me by surprise and nearly slammed me into a building. Sen. Tim Sheldon said the proposal is the best alternative for Republicans. That reality has helped green Washington’s politics and identity, especially in the western part of the state. ” ‘I’ll take a look.’ ” But in the end, she’s not sure he even voted. “It had no business not passing.”. ... (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) ... Jan. 24, 2019 at 12:33 a.m. UTC. In the US, advocates are crafting an economic stimulus package—a Green New Deal. “People don’t get worried about problems that aren’t happening today or tomorrow,” Dolšak said. Just a few weeks after the election, the National Climate Assessment confirmed that all that was likely just an ominous portent of things to come: Climate change threatens the region’s infrastructure with landslides, rising seas and aberrant weather, while its most vulnerable communities face deteriorating air and water quality. The natural gas industry also began to swell, proposing a dozen separate refineries and terminals with their attendant pipelines and trains in Oregon and Washington. In Oregon, voters elected a blue bloc of representatives, including Golden’s brother Jeff in southern Oregon, who promised to block permits for an LNG export terminal at Jordan Cove. join us with a tax-deductible donation today. A carbon tax failed on the ballot in 2016. Wheat fields and forests burned and towns throughout the region were choked with wildfire smoke. U.S. impacts of climate change are intensifying, federal report says, Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere may soar to levels not seen in 56 million years, Your California Privacy Rights/Privacy Policy. However, you must still pay the tax due on your original filing date. Our minds are better suited to immediate threats—like snarling hyenas or flammable trains—and we struggle with the abstract dangers of a changing climate. The carbon fee would add 15 cents per gallon, an increase of 21 cents per gallon. Can you pitch in a few bucks to help fund Mother Jones' investigative journalism? All Rights Reserved. And although the cost of new standards varies between industries, within them, the costs are the same. By 9 p.m., Initiative 1631 was dead. What you should know about WA Gov. The plan would tax carbon emissions generated by transportation fuels and power plants at $20 per metric ton starting in July of 2019. This was the state’s second attempt to tax carbon emissions, and in the months leading up to the vote, an unusually wide swath of Washington society had turned out in support. The carbon fee would add 15 cents per gallon, an increase of 21 cents per gallon. But for now climate activists are stuck with the art of the possible. “If you look at this package as a whole it deals with both environmental and infrastructure needs,” Hobbs said. And not long after the US midterms, France underwent a major political crisis, brought in part by a fuel tax meant to curb emissions. “People who weren’t sure if they were going to win—that’s the best.”. But in the Northwest, that’s not the case. He was in a reflective mood: Climate Solutions was in the midst of moving offices, and they’d unearthed years of news clippings on the long fight for climate action in the state, records of campaigns and failures going back more than a decade. But the moral urgency, the sense that life after oil is a real possibility, the feeling that anything useful can be done — those aren’t. Terminals, refineries and railways exist in the material realm, de Place said. In this way, climate change can boggle the imagination. “All human practices and disputes can now be expressed through the language of climate change, which has become a new medium through which human life is lived.”. Human-caused climate change is turning into a “medical emergency” that could result in death and disease for millions, according to British medical journal, The Lancet. But, even as the state passed a measure to tighten gun control and supported congressional Democrats, voters clearly rejected a chance to take a bold step with a first-in-the-nation carbon tax. They focus on consolidating a liberal base, he said, to their detriment. Washington Gov. Initiative 1631 differed in that it proposed to use revenue from carbon fees to invest in projects to reduce pollution. In the wake of the election, the couple published half a dozen pieces analyzing the failure that drew on their own discussions. Business and petroleum groups may take an interest, Hobbs added, in how the bill limits future fuel standards. It's us but for your ears. Golden’s mind was on what would come next, including setting aside the fight for a carbon tax, for now. But some observers say the challenges with raising taxes to pay for climate action run deeper. Given these reminders, now would have seemed a prime time for Initiative 1631. This was the state’s second attempt to tax carbon emissions, and in the months leading up to the vote, an unusually wide swath of Washington society had turned out in support. It also sets the carbon fee at a fixed rate, without increases over time. A coalition of environmental groups, labor unions, racial and economic justice advocates, health workers and leaders from nearly two dozen tribal nations had designed the tax proposal, and their supporters, in a mix of work-wear, fleece and the occasional suit, filled the airless room. This op-ed in The Snohomish Times on Jan. 19, 2019 explains what happened with the court ruling and what to expect moving forward. Without a course correction, climate activists may well find themselves right back where they started, raising the body count on failed climate initiatives while blithely marching forward. Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox. Although he believes people will embrace climate action eventually, in the short term, he conceded, “I think things are going to get worse before they get better.”, Prakash blamed environmentalists and their approach. “Carbon pricing is not our quest,” he said, his voice both uptempo and steady. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and After all, in the months leading up to the vote, climate change made its mark on much of Washington life. Oregon governor Kate Brown led … “(Fossil fuel companies) have spent centuries creating a system of dependency,” Aiko Schaefer, one of the architects of 1631 and the director of Front and Centered, a climate advocacy coalition for people of color, said. The failure of Washington’s carbon tax proved a dim coda to the state’s long fight to control rising temperatures and reverse their effects on its most vulnerable communities. The fight for the carbon tax, then, becomes a fight for what the future of our society ought to look like—and on that, we remain deeply conflicted. At least 10 other states have introduced carbon fee or tax proposals, however, as emissions of the greenhouse gas linked to global warming hit an all-time high last year, scientists found. Those climate hawks who believe that extreme weather events, like wildfires and hurricanes, will inspire climate inactivists are overly optimistic, Prakash said. In Washington, fossil fuel companies and lobbyists spent more than $30 million to defeat Initiative 1631, versus $17 million from supporters. “If a carbon tax cannot pass in good economic times, in a pro-environment state like Washington, then action on climate is far more difficult than it used to seem.” Prakash’s longer view gave him a more hopeful perspective, she said, forecasting what might happen thousands of years from now. And the messaging of the “No” on 1631 campaign fed on the rich vein of discontent around accountability for the funds the tax would raise, as well as the worry that voters, rather than large-scale polluters, would end up paying for the cost of climate change. Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation. By 2008, Golden had helped craft local and state commitments to clean energy, and climate activists stepped back, thinking their local fight was mostly over and the federal government would pick up the slack. Dolšak tends to agree: She hypothesized that even cap-and-trade, which often amounts to the same thing as a carbon tax, might have passed in the state, given that it sidesteps the word tax and directly limits emissions. “They were holed up in the mountains with their coal, and they were trying to figure out where to go,” Golden said. “A lot of environmentalists are approaching conservation and pollution reduction from a normative perspective: We have to reduce pollution and protect the environment,” Dolšak told me. “We have anecdotal evidence that money doesn’t lead to electoral success,” Prakash said. After Carbon Tax Fails in Washington, Focus Turns to 9 Other States Washington state won’t be enacting the nation’s first tax on greenhouse gas emissions this year. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands. The carbon fee and gas tax account for about $10 billion of the roughly $13.6 billion in fees in the package. She came to believe it was a failure of Washington’s green self-mythology: “In Washington, we’re excited to support environmental action, as long as we don’t have to pay for it,” she said. W hen it comes to energy policy, Washington has one resource that appears infinitely renewable: carbon-tax proposals.. Al Gore proposed a carbon tax back in 1992. In the months since the vote, national climate politics have remained mired in feuding over partisan responsibility and inaction. For Dolšak, the less optimistic of the two, the tax’s failure reinforced her sense that sweeping climate action is far from imminent. Several local governments have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, he said, and the state has a slate of pending bills from creating a clean fuel program to building light rail, giving people more options to get around. Current law. Its demise raised big questions about humanity’s ability to address climate change. In addition to concerns about air pollution and the safety of coal trains and gas pipelines, the proposals threatened the region’s sense that it was a leader on climate change. Washington voters, in other words, were given a specific action to undertake while they lived out the specific consequences of climate change. The costs of relocating communities farther inland from the coasts, for example, won’t be recouped from sales of Teslas. In short, the difficulty of addressing climate stems from its very power: Its effects are inextricable from the way we have configured our society. When she spoke to voters in Spokane, not many people there knew what the tax was, let alone what it had to do with the wildfire smoke outside their windows. It is impossible to separate ourselves from the climate far enough to get a clear look at it, something equally true of many injustices and economic structures. And in the state of Washington, the carbon tax initiatives have suffered two successive defeats in 2016 and 2018. The $17.1 billion fee-and-bond package it's part of also features a 6-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase. The initiative promised to pool funds for projects, including new bus lines, land conservation grants, and training to transition fossil fuel workers into other jobs. By 2010, the decline of the US coal market had become obvious, and the fossil fuel industry began to eye the West Coast for access to Asian markets. Now almost 60, Golden claimed his first climate victory in the 1980s, when his group Northwest Energy Coalition was part of regional energy efficiency efforts. Last fall, the majority of voters in my legislative district voted against Initiative 1631, the carbon tax scheme. “2019 is a year we can make a lot of progress on this,” Nick Abraham, a spokesman for the Yes on 1631 campaign, told me. I checked the televisions: A few counties were leaning toward approving the measure. Establishing a carbon pollution tax and investment program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, facilitate the transition to a clean energy economy, and invest in K-12 education and other vital public services. All of these things are wrapped together, but the climate is changing, and so must our analysis of it. The West Coast offered the quickest way from coal country to China, and so began a wave of proposals for trains to haul the coal and for coastal terminals from Oakland, California, to Bellingham, Washington, to export it. “The word ‘tax’ is probably the most reviled word,” said Hal Harvey, CEO of the firm Energy Innovation, which helps design renewable energy policies around the globe. I stumbled down a flight of stairs looking for somewhere to retreat to, but there was nothing around but bad weather. Revenue impact. Whichever one I’d call, I’d find them together: They have been married for 19 years and often greeted me in unison in a well-worn routine. The Lummi Nation successfully killed a proposal for an export terminal for Montana coal outside Bellingham. Economists generally support a carbon tax over regulations or building standards, because it costs all emitters fairly, in proportion to their emissions. But Initiative 1631 failed, and Washington must now confront a darker version of itself, in the kind of identity crisis that comes only in defeat. Unsurprisingly, the carbon tax found wide support among the state’s tribal nations, some of whom face the obvious possibility of displacement due to rising seas, and in Seattle’s communities of color, where air pollution already causes higher-than-average rates of asthma. New tax hard to swallow; Washington Democrats pull fast one in Legislature’s last weekend By The News Tribune Editorial Board April 30, 2019 12:30 PM , The state put a limit on emissions in 2008. In the three northeast counties, the percentage of people voting no were: Ferry County = 74.5 percent; Stevens County = 79 percent; Pend Oreille County = 77.24 percent. “We did it,” a young woman standing next to me said. In the end, the measure passed in just three places: Seattle’s King County, Port Townsend’s Jefferson County and the county that encompasses the San Juan Islands. “We’re just not on the same timeline as physics.” Climate change is not just an environmental problem or an economic problem, and it can’t be framed that way. This story was funded with reader donations to the High Country News Enterprise Journalism Fund. “An extreme weather event doesn’t affect political leanings.” Ongoing, intensifying hurricanes in Florida, for example, have not necessarily driven people to vote for liberal candidates who back climate action, and extreme weather has a relatively small impact on public opinion. Given this, the fight over what to do about rising temperatures epitomizes all our other disagreements over what justice—let alone climate justice—might, and should, look like. Alberta’s anger against the carbon tax is misplaced. “If you take a mile-long coal train going through Seattle, it just doesn’t look good,” said de Place. Funds would go toward projects including highway maintenance, the state ferry system and federally-mandated culvert replacement projects. More: U.S. impacts of climate change are intensifying, federal report says, More: Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere may soar to levels not seen in 56 million years. Similar state proposals have failed. Then a strange hush swept the room, rippling outward from the televisions. Washington Initiative 732, a "tax swap" proposal to levy a tax on carbon emissions and simultaneously reduce the state's sales tax, had appeared on the ballot in the 2016 election, but failed to pass. In 2018, voters in Kalama, Washington, elected Mayor Mike Reuter, who promised to block construction of a plant for methanol, a fossil fuel with a heavy pollution fingerprint. This election cycle, Jordan Stevenson was a fellow at the advocacy group Our Climate, which supported Washington’s carbon tax. New data on greenhouse gas emissions in Washington shows signs of progress in the state’s efforts to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change. The fight to block fossil fuel infrastructure drew widespread support in Washington and Oregon. “It still didn’t seem concrete or tangible to people,” Stevenson said. The big lesson is that we need to seek the root cause of our worries, clarify our fears and to face them head on. “The fundamentals are there,” he concluded. The time for a carbon tax will come, Harvey said. In Seattle, people halted their daily runs and commuters wore masks to work, as an orange murk hid the hills of the suburbs and clung to the Space Needle. The line for the bar stretched the length of the room, and a bank of television screens on the far wall drew barely a glance as the evening progressed. ... as diesel inches closer to 2019 levels. For example, Stevenson, the canvasser, was first drawn to climate activism through her interest in reproductive health and justice: “There are areas where people’s children are not growing up healthy because they’re breathing in fumes or drinking fossil fuels in their water,” she said. Dolšak thought it was doomed, while Prakash acknowledged ruefully, “I thought it would pass.”, Not that Dolšak enjoyed being right; 1631’s defeat left them both deflated, she said. 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