Campaign News

Hello carbon tax friends:

* I’m delighted to announce that Alex Lenferna and Carter Case are joining the CarbonWA team! Alex is a Fulbright Scholar getting his PhD in the Philosophy Department at UW; Carter just completed his BA in Environmental Studies at UW and “is celebrating by working on carbon taxes”!

* New ballot language: We just got the ballot language back from a test-run initiative we filed last month. The full text of the initiative is here, or you can track it all down from the Secretary of State’s website, but here’s the ballot language as written by the Secretary of State’s office: “Statement of subject: Initiative Measure No. 1359 concerns taxes. Concise description: This measure would impose a tax, with exceptions, on fossil fuels, phase in a one percentage-point sales tax reduction, eliminate business and occupation taxes for manufacturers, and increase or eliminate certain tax preferences. Ballot measure summary: This measure would tax, with exceptions, the carbon content of fossil fuels extracted or manufactured in, or introduced into, Washington, including fossil fuels used to generate electricity. Taxes would be $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide in 2015, $25 per ton in 2016, increasing 5% annually thereafter. The measure would reduce state sales tax by 1% by 2016, eliminate business and occupation taxes for manufacturers, increase certain tax preferences, and eliminate two tax preferences.”

CarbonWA legal advisor Bill Appel continues to help us iron out our legal language and is digging into some of the puzzles about the new ballot language, but we’re making good progress in a key area that we fell short on last year! (Comments welcome on the blog, but please note that we do not get to write the ballot language: we submit the full text of the initiative and then then Secretary of State writes the ballot language; yes we can sue, but a better option is usually to tweak the full text in order to generate changes in the ballot language.)

* Events: On T June 24 the governor’s CERT climate taskforce will be meeting in downtown Seattle to “discuss initial policy design options”… and I’m happy to report that they’ll be hearing from experts on both the BC carbon tax and the CA cap-and-trade system. (The CERT meetings are open to the public but there is no opportunity for public comment; it’s from 10am-1pm at the EPA Region 10 office, 1200 6th Ave.)

* You can help: If you can take good notes and want to go to the CERT meeting please let me know. And if you’ve been waiting to make a donation then you can test out our fancy new Donate button:

* Readings: I have been trying hard to get news on how the new EPA regulations affect state-level carbon-pricing efforts, but so far all I hear is that the EPA makes it very clear that cap-and-trade is allowed; carbon taxes are a bit less clear but there’s hope that the uncertainty will get cleared up in the next year before the rule goes into effect (or gets held up in court). Until then, here’s two good pieces from 2 weeks ago from EarthFix, one republished in the Grant County Blue Mountain Eagle (“Federal rules on CO2 emissions to bolster action in the Northwest”); the other piece is an Ashley Ahearn radio interview of yours truly. And for the optimistic reading of the week, try “Democrats see winning issue in carbon plan” from the NY Times.

Comments ( 9 )

  • Alan Ness says:

    –I found the amount of the carbon tax in the ballot proposal to be: “…with automatic increases thereafter by five percent each year beginning July 1st, measured in each case by applying a carbon calculation to the particular fossil fuel, upon the sale or use in Washington of:”

    For some reason the endless increase of 5% each year without limit sounds fishy! I know it is not quite like the famous story of doubling the single rice grain on a chessboard until you get an enormous amount, but it is unsettling to think if how expensive gas might get for my children or grand-children! What is your perspective?
    -Alan Ness

    • John says:

      I do not agree, The 5% increase is on a fixed basis od $25 per metric ton (6/2016) of carbon content in the fossil fuel. This is akin to accounting for inflation in the value of the dollar. It may be infinitesimally greater than the average inflation rate, but not significantly. It also allows for balancing the sale, B and O, & excise tax reductions with the expected reduction in emitting fuels that this may result in. It creates a balancing force in the equation between tax increase/decrease and the revenue from the carbon tax in the face of potential falling carbon release amounts.
      All of the provisions are going to be adjusted and amended over time anyways. This has occurred with the state tax codes so many times that they have become a messy byzantine confusion of exceptions and exceptions to exceptions and this behavior will continue. The 5% provision is very wise in that it creates a place holder in the law that can be more easily adjusted over time.

    • Yoram Bauman says:

      Mostly I agree with John, but this is good feedback. Maybe we should cap it at $100 per ton? The rule of 70 estimates that with 5% increases the tax will double in 70/5=14 years, so starting at $25 means it will take 28 years to reach $100. That’s almost 2050, and long before then there will almost certainly be other tweaks to increase/decrease/change the tax code.

      • Alan Ness says:

        I like the idea of a cap, even at 2050. I think it helps with the initial reaction to reading the Ballot Measure. And any language paralleling the 5% increase with long-term inflation is also helpful.

  • Carol Cairnes says:

    It doesn’t make sense that only fossil fuels that are being considered when fuels like woody biomass pellets produce CO2 as well. Will this not just drive more deforestation?

    • John says:

      I agree, When we burn fossil fuels we are essentially dipping into a long term pool of sequestered carbon and releasing it into the atmosphere. How is this any different to dipping into a shorter term form of carbon sequestration in the form of Trees and biomass? While it is true that we could increase the sequestration of carbon by growing more trees to replace those that were pelatized….. it is also true that the language of this initiative may do nothing to encourage that. Burning and/or conversion of trees and other forms of short term carbon sequestration should be included unless shown to be carbon neutral thru a contractual and bonded agreement that includes an actual simultaneous commitment to an equal annual sequestration in the field that is maintained by the carbon release enterprise.

  • Yoram Bauman says:

    A couple of thoughts on this:

    1) Wood products can potentially be produced in a sustainable way: new trees absorb the carbon that is released from burning pellets or cord wood. This just mimics the natural carbon cycle, yes?

    2) We’re trying to keep it simple, and focusing on fossil fuels is one way to do that. Yes there are carbon implications of deforestation and methane and beyond, but fossil fuels are the #1 issue.

  • Kevin Henning says:

    The carbon tax proposal seems like a sensible method to reduce CO2 emissions. How would this tax affect the cost of an airline ticket? I understand air travel is associated with massive CO2 output, but when traveling thousands of miles car or train travel is unrealistic. Many people can reduce CO2 emissions from autos by car pooling, walking or taking public transportation, but there is no viable alternative when one needs to travel coast to coast. (It’s not like you could take a hybrid plane!) Would the proposal be especially burdensome to air travel?

    • Yoram Bauman says:

      We’ll have more information on air travel shortly, but a decent ballpark is that flying from A to B uses about the same amount of petroleum per person as driving the same distance in a 60mph vehicle. So roughly 3000 miles to NYC would be about 50 gallons per person. A carbon tax of $30 per ton CO2 is about $0.30 a gallon, so the carbon tax would mean $15 for a one-way plane ticket.

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