With a week to go before the election, a ballot question in the State of Washington known as Initiative 732 is facing an uncertain future. Polls show supporters of the measure, which is modeled on a hugely successful carbon fee program in British Columbia, are leading but not by much.
Initiative 732 would place an initial $25 fee per metric ton on carbon dioxide emissions. The money raised would be used to fund tax cuts and tax rebates throughout the state. Eastern Washington resident Robin Priddy tells Think Progress why she supports the measure. “Over here, in the eastern part of the state, the past couple of years have been beastly in terms of wildfires, and we perceive that as definitely having a connection to climate change,” Priddy said. “So the notion of doing something about it, we feel pretty strongly about it.”
But two powerful conservation groups, The Sierra Club and the Washington Environmental Council, have refused to support the measure. They claim it doesn’t go far enough, so they have decided to hold their breath until they turn blue rather than support something that at least begins to address the issue of climate change in the state. It looks as though their obstructionist tactics will pay off.
In the past few weeks, fossil fuel interests and utility companies have poured nearly a half million dollars into an effort to defeat the initiative. They think they should have an absolute right to pollute the air, the water, and the land without having to pay for the damage they cause. Business has a curious inability to see beyond the next quarterly earnings report.
The three largest donations have come from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a D.C.-based trade association that gave $250,000; Puget Sound Energy, a Washington-based utility company that gave $100,000; and Kaiser Aluminum, a California-based manufacturing company with plants in Washington, which also gave $100,000.
“The more people hear about I-732 the more they like it, and they’re hearing about it more and more,” Yoram Bauman, author of the initiative and founder of the group CarbonWA. Bauman attributes the positive numbers for the initiative to a spate of favorable media attention, op-eds, and celebrity endorsements. Leonardo DiCaprio, producer of the new movie about climate change called Before The Flood recently endorsed the initiative on Twitter.
If Initiative 732 passes, it will make the state of Washington the first in the nation to adopt a carbon fee system. It is important not to call the measure a carbon tax. It is not a tax. It is a sum of money assessed to make fossil fuels bear their full cost to society, including the illness and pollution they cause.
What could be fairer than that? Why do they get to dump their pollutants and make taxpayers clean up their mess? For too long, they have poured their waste products into the environment with impunity. Making them pay for their damage will promote other forms of clean energy, such as wind and solar power. And not a moment too soon.
Source: Think Progress