NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2023

Let’s Go Washington turns in signatures for measure to repeal Climate Commitment Act

This after­noon in Tumwa­ter, a net­work of right wing groups led by Repub­li­can megadonor Bri­an Hey­wood’s Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton polit­i­cal com­mit­tee sub­mit­ted what it said were peti­tions bear­ing 418,399 sig­na­tures for Ini­tia­tive 2117, one of six ini­tia­tives they are hop­ing to qual­i­fy to the 2024 Wash­ing­ton State Legislature.

Spon­sored by Repub­li­can State Par­ty Chair Jim Walsh, I‑2117 would repeal Wash­ing­ton’s land­mark Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act and wreck the state’s plans to secure a just and respon­si­ble tran­si­tion to a clean ener­gy future. NPI con­sid­ers the ini­tia­tive a grave threat to Wash­ing­ton’s well-being and strong­ly oppos­es it.

Pri­or to sub­mit­ting sig­na­tures in Tumwa­ter, Hey­wood and his Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton crew held an event at a Kent gas sta­tion for the mass media, with a U‑Haul truck full of box­es of sig­na­tures parked behind them. The event was seem­ing­ly orga­nized to offer a visu­al to Seat­tle’s tele­vi­sion sta­tions, but none sent cam­era crews. The Seat­tle Times, Cross­cut, and NPI were rep­re­sent­ed, however.

In Kent, Hey­wood was the only speak­er, and he offered brief remarks that last­ed less than eight min­utes. After­ward, he answered ques­tions posed by The Seat­tle Times’ Jim Brun­ner, who worked with Claire With­y­combe to write an arti­cle about Ini­tia­tive 2117 and the Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton slate.

Brian Heywood speaking at a media event in Kent

Repub­li­can megadonor Bri­an Hey­wood touts Ini­tia­tive 2117 at an event in Kent as the Cli­mate Solu­tions team holds up a ban­ner declar­ing “Pol­luters Win, You Lose” a few meters away (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

In Tumwa­ter, Hey­wood and Walsh both spoke. Curi­ous­ly, they tried to claim that they are not opposed to hold­ing pol­luters account­able for the pol­lu­tion that they cre­ate. But of course, they don’t have a cli­mate action plan of their own to replace the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act in the event I‑2117 were to go into effect.

“We want the plan­et to be clean. We don’t want pol­luters to get off scot-free,” Hey­wood claimed in Tumwa­ter. “Frankly, what the car­bon tax does is it allows pol­luters to get off scot-free… They just pass the cost on.”

Hey­wood is wrong. Wash­ing­ton’s cap and invest sys­tem is actu­al­ly not a car­bon tax, nor does it allow pol­luters to get off “scot-free.”

Here’s a cor­rect char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act from the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Ecol­o­gy: “The cap-and-invest pro­gram sets a lim­it, or cap, on over­all car­bon emis­sions in the state and requires busi­ness­es to obtain allowances equal to their cov­ered green­house gas emis­sions. These allowances can be obtained through quar­ter­ly auc­tions host­ed by Ecol­o­gy, or bought and sold on a sec­ondary mar­ket (just like stocks and bonds).”

“The cap will be reduced over time to ensure Wash­ing­ton achieves its 2030, 2040, and 2050 emis­sions-reduc­tion com­mit­ments, which means we’ll issue few­er emis­sions allowances each year,” Ecol­o­gy’s primer goes on to explain.

A pol­lu­tion tax is a dif­fer­ent mech­a­nism for putting a price on pollution.

“Under a car­bon tax, the gov­ern­ment sets a price that emit­ters must pay for each ton of green­house gas emis­sions they emit. Busi­ness­es and con­sumers will take steps, such as switch­ing fuels or adopt­ing new tech­nolo­gies, to reduce their emis­sions to avoid pay­ing the tax,” the Cen­ter for Cli­mate and Ener­gy Solu­tions notes. “A car­bon tax dif­fers from a cap-and-trade [a.k.a. cap and invest] pro­gram in that it pro­vides a high­er lev­el of cer­tain­ty about cost, but not about the lev­el of emis­sion reduc­tion to be achieved (cap and trade does the inverse).”

Right wing groups like the Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter have spent months claim­ing that the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act has result­ed in an increase in prices for gaso­line, even though evi­dence shows that many fac­tors influ­ence fuel prices.

If you go on a Thanks­giv­ing road trip to Ore­gon, you’ll find the cur­rent price for gas there is very com­pa­ra­ble to prices in Wash­ing­ton. I was just in the Beaver State, and I paid $3.99 a gal­lon on each side of the Colum­bia. Ore­gon has no cap and invest sys­tem, yet just a few days ago, when I drove from state to state, I paid the exact same price there as I did for gas in Washington!

While it’s true that com­pa­nies can pass on the costs of com­ply­ing with a law to cus­tomers, or their cus­tomers’ cus­tomers, they don’t have to. The oil indus­try is heav­i­ly sub­si­dized and very prof­itable and can choose not to pass on its costs. The Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter counts oil com­pa­nies among its donors and has a vest­ed inter­est in crit­i­ciz­ing poli­cies that oil com­pa­nies do not like.

Amus­ing­ly, the Kent gas sta­tion where Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton had its event today — a Shell sta­tion with a Jack­son’s mini mart — is charg­ing a high­er price for gaso­line than a com­peti­tor right across the street. Peo­ple in the Kent area can eas­i­ly pay less for gas sim­ply by choos­ing a dif­fer­ent sta­tion to fill up at.

Repeal­ing the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act would gut bil­lions of dol­lars in invest­ments Wash­ing­ton needs with­out guar­an­tee­ing a decrease in fuel prices.

Oil com­pa­nies are under no oblig­a­tion to charge less if I‑2117 goes into effect, a crit­i­cal fact that went unac­knowl­edged by Hey­wood and Walsh today.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Sen­a­tors Joe Nguyễn and Marko Liias issued a joint state­ment defend­ing the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act a few hours before Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton showed up in Tumwa­ter with a U‑Haul truck full of box­es of petitions.

“The invest­ments fund­ed by the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act are already pro­vid­ing major ben­e­fits to the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton,” Nguyễn said.

“Wash­ing­ton is lead­ing the way to a clean­er, green­er future, and we can’t stop our cli­mate progress. We need to defeat cli­mate change and rein in the pol­lu­tion that the oil and gas indus­try is caus­ing across our state and nation — the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act is how we make that happen.”

“Our Move Ahead Wash­ing­ton pack­age is a com­pre­hen­sive, fif­teen-year vision for our state to reduce traf­fic con­ges­tion, expand tran­sit and mobil­i­ty options, and fix pot­holes and pre­serve aging bridges. The Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act is the foun­da­tion of these invest­ments, with­out it all of these crit­i­cal invest­ments are at risk,” Liias said. (He cur­rent­ly serves as Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Chair.) “Right as our econ­o­my is begin­ning to recov­er from the pan­dem­ic, we shouldn’t jeop­ar­dize this progress. Wash­ing­ton fam­i­lies can’t afford to spend more time stuck in traf­fic or blocked by a fail­ing bridge, and our kids can’t keep breath­ing pol­lut­ed air.”

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee is also strong­ly opposed to I‑2117.

“Basi­cal­ly, my mes­sage is not in our house… We are cer­tain­ly not going to cut our state off at the ankles and go back­wards,” Inslee said at a rib­bon cut­ting for the Olympic Her­itage Behav­ioral Health psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal, in remarks report­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Stan­dard­’s Jer­ry Corn­field.

Takeaways from Let’s Go Washington’s I‑2117 events

Hav­ing spent hours with the Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton crew in Kent and Tumwa­ter, I got the sense that Hey­wood, Walsh, and the peo­ple they’ve hired to work for them are deeply enmeshed in their own right wing echo cham­ber and love to lis­ten to them­selves talk. They appear to be utter­ly con­vinced that Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors are total­ly out of touch, even though recent elec­toral his­to­ry sup­ports the argu­ment that it’s they who are out of touch.

This par­tic­u­lar state­ment from Hey­wood speaks vol­umes: “Law­mak­ers had their fun, but now it’s time for the adults to clean up the mess.”

The impli­ca­tion is that law­mak­ers are imma­ture chil­dren behav­ing irresponsibly.

In real­i­ty, Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sup­port tak­ing cli­mate action and a major­i­ty are even will­ing to pay high­er gas prices and home heat­ing costs to get aggres­sive cli­mate laws, as our pub­lic opin­ion research has demon­strat­ed.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors act­ed respon­si­bly and in the best inter­est of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans when they passed the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act.

If Hey­wood, Walsh, and their ilk were in charge, we’d have no cli­mate action laws at all despite decades — decades! — of warn­ings from cli­mate sci­en­tists about the per­il our plan­et faces and the urgent need to reduce emissions.

Bri­an Hey­wood and Jim Walsh have not iden­ti­fied any poli­cies that they would sup­port as alter­na­tives to the CCA that would help us raise the resources need­ed to secure a clean ener­gy future. Per­haps they do believe in cli­mate sci­ence, but they cer­tain­ly don’t believe in respond­ing to it.

They also seem not to appre­ci­ate that there’s a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between a pub­lic vote on a pro­pos­al to cre­ate some­thing brand new and a pub­lic vote on a pro­pos­al to repeal some­thing. Ini­tia­tive 732 and Ini­tia­tive 1631, which were defeat­ed in 2016 and 2018, were attempts to put a price on pol­lu­tion. Ini­tia­tive 2117 is an attempt to repeal a price on pol­lu­tion that already exists.

The oppo­si­tion to I‑2117 has recent­ly been test­ing its bal­lot title (the words that vot­ers will see on the bal­lot rep­re­sent­ing the mea­sure) and has found it’s a real clunk­er, which is a prob­lem for the mea­sure’s prospects.

Bri­an Hey­wood has dis­missed this research, laugh­ing and telling The Stan­dard­’s Jer­ry Corn­field: “I hope they believe their polls with their entire souls.”

That’s a very curi­ous state­ment com­ing from some­one who pro­fess­es to be data-dri­ven. Hey­wood appears to not be inter­est­ed in any infor­ma­tion that con­tra­dicts his nar­ra­tive. I keep hear­ing Hey­wood tout the polling he’s com­mis­sioned in favor of his six ini­tia­tives, includ­ing today. He has bragged that the ini­tia­tives are viewed favor­ably even by Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers. But he has­n’t pro­duced this polling for eval­u­a­tion and scruti­ny. If Hey­wood is tru­ly con­fi­dent that his data is sound and ours isn’t, why not pub­lish the research? Why not show instead of tell?

If the sci­en­tif­ic method was­n’t fol­lowed and cor­ners were cut by his ven­dors (as was the case last year when many right wing firms were putting out garbage polls right before the elec­tion) then Hey­wood will have paid for data that tells him what he wants to hear but does­n’t reflect the opin­ions of a major­i­ty of Washingtonians.

Per­haps this is why Hey­wood has­n’t shown us his numbers.

Our team at NPI has decades of expe­ri­ence fight­ing destruc­tive right wing ini­tia­tives like I‑2117. We are already putting that expe­ri­ence to use to ensure that I‑2117 gets the vig­or­ous and effec­tive oppo­si­tion that it deserves.

We invite you to learn more by vis­it­ing our new cam­paign web­site oppos­ing Hey­wood and Wal­sh’s slate of ini­tia­tives at StopGreed.org.

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  1. […] Sig­na­tures for Ini­tia­tive 2117 were sub­mit­ted on Tues­day, Novem­ber 21st; our recap o…. The next mea­sure Hey­wood and Walsh plan to sub­mit sig­na­tures for is report­ed­ly Ini­tia­tive 2113, which would roll back restric­tions on police pur­suits that are mak­ing our com­mu­ni­ties safer. […]

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