A filthy coal burning power plant
A filthy coal burning power plant

Near­ly three in five Wash­ing­ton vot­ers agree it’s time for the state to put a price on pol­lu­tion to fund a social­ly respon­si­ble tran­si­tion to clean ener­gy, accord­ing to a sur­vey con­duct­ed last month by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI.

59% of like­ly 2018 vot­ers sur­veyed agree that Wash­ing­ton State should reduce emis­sions of air pol­lu­tants like car­bon diox­ide and methane by levy­ing a pol­lu­tion tax and using the rev­enue raised to invest in elec­tric trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture and renew­able ener­gy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal.

40% dis­agreed, while 1% were not sure.

Respon­dents were asked:

Wash­ing­ton State has com­mit­ted to meet­ing the goals of the Paris cli­mate accords as a par­tic­i­pant of the recent­ly-formed Unit­ed States Cli­mate Alliance. Do you strong­ly agree, some­what agree, some­what dis­agree or strong­ly dis­agree with the fol­low­ing state­ment: Wash­ing­ton State should levy a tax on pol­lu­tion to fund projects that would reduce harm­ful emis­sions plus accel­er­ate our tran­si­tion to elec­tric vehi­cles and renew­able ener­gy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal?

Answers were as follows:

  • Agree: 59%
    • Strong­ly agree: 43%
    • Some­what agree: 16%
  • Dis­agree: 40%
    • Some­what dis­agree: 12%
    • Strong­ly dis­agree: 28%
  • Not sure: 1%

The inten­si­ty of sup­port ris­es with younger vot­ers, who will be grap­pling with the con­se­quences of cli­mate dam­age for the rest of their lives.

Notably, 51% of respon­dents between the ages of eigh­teen and forty-five strong­ly agree that the state should levy a pol­lu­tion tax.

Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are increas­ing­ly enthu­si­as­tic about putting a price on pol­lu­tion. There’s a wide­spread appre­ci­a­tion that pol­lu­tion neg­a­tive­ly impacts all of us in far-reach­ing ways. It’s dam­ag­ing our cli­mate and it’s detri­men­tal to our health.

We know that we need to invest in a social­ly respon­si­ble, just tran­si­tion to a clean ener­gy econ­o­my. What bet­ter way to do that than through a tax on pollution?

In 2016, Wash­ing­ton vot­ers reject­ed Car­bon­WA’s I‑732, an ini­tia­tive that would have insti­tut­ed a pol­lu­tion tax, but used the rev­enue to cut oth­er tax­es instead of invest­ing in clean ener­gy infrastructure.

Advance polling by FM3 for the Alliance for Jobs & Clean Ener­gy found sup­port for I‑732’s bal­lot title at around 39% pri­or to the cam­paign, sug­gest­ing dim prospects. The mea­sure ulti­mate­ly received 40.75% of the vote statewide.

Efforts are under­way to give Wash­ing­to­ni­ans the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vote on putting a price on pol­lu­tion in 2018 if the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture does not act first.

The body of research avail­able leads us to con­clude most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans want a pol­lu­tion tax that enables and accel­er­ates a social­ly respon­si­ble, just tran­si­tion away from fos­sil fuels as opposed to engi­neer­ing a tax swap.

No one should be left behind. We have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a more inclu­sive econ­o­my as we under­take this tran­si­tion, and we should not squan­der that oppor­tu­ni­ty. By invest­ing the rev­enue from a pol­lu­tion tax into things we need — like elec­tric trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture and solar, wind, and geot­her­mal ener­gy — we can raise the qual­i­ty of life for all Washingtonians.

NPI’s sur­vey of 887 like­ly 2018 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed via land­line. The poll has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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