Following the Legislature’s failure to reach agreement on a plan to put a price on pollution in Washington State, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (of which NPI is a member) has announced that it is moving forward with plans to qualify an initiative to the November ballot that would impose a fee on emissions.
“Today, diverse constituencies across the state representing working families, communities of color, environmental and clean energy advocates, health professionals, businesses, and faith organizations have jointly filed an initiative to protect Washington’s land, air, and water and move us towards a strong, healthy clean energy economy,” said Alliance leaders in a statement.
“This initiative is Washington’s chance for all of us to have a share in a cleaner healthier future and build a better economy that works for everyone,” the statement went on to explain. “It would invest in clean energy infrastructure like wind and solar, healthy forests, and clean water, creating thousands of good paying jobs across the state while cutting pollution.”
“Today’s action is a first step towards putting an initiative on the ballot in November. Washington communities thrive when they have clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and an economy rooted in sustainable local jobs.”
“This is a state where diverse communities and businesses, large and small, take responsibility to care for our health and environment.”
“From the air we breathe to worsening fires and floods, we know pollution and climate change affect us every day. Dirty energy has hurt our health and our climate for years and it’s time to start cleaning up the mess. Washington voters, communities, and businesses are demanding strong and effective action on climate pollution and today’s filing starts the process for the people of Washington to act.”
NPI research suggests the people of Washington are ready to act.
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 June 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 question we asked Washington voters to respond to last June is essentially the Alliance’s desired policy in a nutshell. All respondents participated by landline, so we think the result may understate the actual level of support for this idea.
(Many people no longer have landlines — this is especially true of millennials. We found that a majority of voters from ages eighteen through forty-five strongly agree with the idea of putting a price on pollution to raise money for a just transition to a clean energy future, compared to 43% overall.)
Technically speaking, the Alliance has opted to make its pollution price a fee as opposed to a tax. The objective is to ensure that the revenue it raises goes to projects and priorities that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This way, the revenue the initiative raises goes to its intended purpose.
NPI supports going to the ballot this year with the kind of policy the Alliance has been discussing and developing these past few years. We actually wanted to see the Alliance qualify a measure to the 2016 ballot that would have provided voters with an alternative to I‑732. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
Here is a summary of the initiative provided by the Alliance.
Summary of the Protect Washington Act
The intent of this act is to protect Washington for our children, our grandchildren, and future generations by quickly and effectively reducing pollution and addressing its negative impacts.
Investments to Clean Up Pollution
Investments will accelerate Washington State’s transition to clean energy, increase the resiliency of the state’s waters and forests to the impacts of climate change, and reduce the impacts of climate change on communities.
- 70% to Clean Air and Clean Energy
- Investments in job-creating projects and investments that yield verifiable reductions in carbon [dioxide] pollution, including solar, wind and other renewable energy; clean transportation options; energy efficiency; carbon sequestration in natural resources like forest, farm and marine landscapes.
- A minimum of 15% of the account will assist low-income residents in the transition to a clean energy economy.
- Income, benefit, retraining, and relocation support for fossil fuel workers that are affected by the transition to a clean energy economy.
- 25% to Clean Water and Healthy Forests
- Investments to increase the resiliency of the state’s waters and forests to the impacts of climate change, including:
- Restore and protect estuaries, fisheries and marine shoreline habitats; prepare for sea level rise; address ocean acidification; reduce flood risk; increase sustainable supply of water; and improve infrastructure for treating stormwater, improve resilience to wildfires, improve forest health and reduce vulnerability to insect infestation.
- 5% to Healthy Communities
- Investments to prepare communities for challenges caused by climate change and to ensure that the impacts of climate change are not disproportionately borne by certain populations, including: enhancing community preparedness and awareness around wildfires; fire suppression for tribal communities; relocation of tribal communities impacted by sea level rise; education programs to expand awareness of the impacts of climate change; and community capacity grants.
- Of the above, a minimum of ten percent of state expenditures must be used for projects endorsed by the governing body of a federally recognized tribe.
Fee on Pollution
A pollution reduction fee will be levied and collected on large emitters based on the carbon content of fossil fuels and electricity, including imported electricity, sold or used within this state.
Beginning January 1, 2020, the fee is equal to $15.00 per metric ton of carbon content. Beginning January 1, 2021, the fee increases by $2.00 per year until the state’s 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goal is met and the state’s emissions are on a trajectory that indicates that compliance with the state’s 2050 goal is likely.
In order to prevent emissions and jobs leakage out of state, fossil fuel and electricity sold to and used by energy-intensive and trade-exposed businesses will be exempt from the fee.
Pollution and Health Action Areas
In order to mitigate the effects of pollution and the health impacts of climate change on highly- impacted communities, the Department of Health shall designate pollution and health action areas.
A minimum of 35 percent of state expenditures must be used for investments that provide direct, meaningful, and assured benefits to pollution and health action areas with a minimum of ten percent of state expenditures being located in these communities.
Public Oversight and Government Accountability
A Public Oversight Board will oversee the implementation of this initiative, supported by investment panels that will recommend effective, efficient investments to meet the goals of the Act.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee and the Oversight board shall review and report on the timeliness, efficiency and effectiveness of implementation of the Act.
The initiative has not yet received a number or a ballot title, but will soon. After the ballot title is finalized, the Alliance intends to launch a signature drive to collect 350,000+ signatures and rebrand itself as the “Yes on Initiative XXXX” campaign.