Carbon Fee Initiative to be Submitted for Ballot

According to the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, signature gatherers for I-1631 have gathered about 350,000 signatures, enough to qualify for the ballot with about 100,000 to spare (for weeding out invalid signatures). A ceremony will be held at the state capitol building in Olympia on Monday, July 2 at 10:30 a.m. to turn in the signatures. Then it is off to the races for the fall campaign! We can expect plenty of opposition from dirty energy companies.

The Unitarian Universalist Association Denounces Supreme Court Travel Ban Decision

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold the Trump administration’s travel ban is a dangerous assault on religious freedomspecifically the religious freedom of Muslim people of color.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) was party to an amicus brief questioning the constitutionality of the travel ban, and we are profoundly disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said it best in her dissent. “The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle.”

Sotomayor accurately notes that the decision “tells members of minority religions in our country that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.”

The decision continues the U.S. government’s criminalizing of identity under the guise of making the country safer. Criminalizing entire countries negates our global interconnectedness, a key part of our Unitarian Universalist values.

To the Muslim Unitarian Universalists in our congregations and to Muslim folks we may never meetwe will continue to support you, love you, and work for your right to live and worship freely.

 

Legislature Finishes without Carbon Tax

According to news reports the legislature finished its work on the supplementary budget on March 8 and adjourned without the need for a special session. This will definitely end the possibility of a carbon tax this session and also means that stronger emissions standards (40% reduction by 2015 and 80% by 2050) will not pass.

The legislature did pass three bills on our priority list: Legal Financial Obligations, Oil Transport Safety (Oil Spill Tax on Pipelines) and Voting Rights (see separate posts under News).

Carbon Tax Initiative is Filed

Analysis of the Carbon Tax Initiative 1631

The long title of the initiative is “AN ACT Relating to reducing pollution by investing in clean air, clean energy, clean water, healthy forests, and healthy communities and imposing a fee on large emitters based on their pollution; adding a new chapter to Title 70 RCW; and creating new sections.” Note that the title does not use the word “tax” but only “fee.” This is designed to avoid the tax stigma associated with the previous carbon tax initiative, I-732, which failed at the polls. A proposed short title is “Clean air – clean energy Act.”

The initiative would impose a fee, starting at $15 a ton of “carbon content,” escalating at a rate of $2 a ton per year plus inflation unless emissions goals are met: “Beginning January 1, 2020, the pollution fee on large emitters is equal to fifteen dollars per metric ton of carbon content. Beginning January 1, 2021, the pollution fee on large emitters increases by two dollars per metric ton of carbon content plus inflation each January 1st. The pollution fee will be fixed and no longer increase, except for annual increases for inflation, when the state’s 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goal, as it exists or as it is subsequently amended, is met and the state’s emissions are on a trajectory that indicates that compliance with the state’s 2050 goal is likely, as determined by the board.” It would impose this fee primarily on refineries and utilities.

The intent of the initiative is to reduce emissions, and it uses the following formulation to describe the goals: “The investment plans shall prescribe a competitive project selection process that results in a balanced portfolio of investments containing a wide range of technology, sequestration, and emission reduction solutions that efficiently and effectively reduce the state’s carbon emissions from 2018 levels by a minimum of twenty million metric tons by 2035 and a minimum of fifty million metric tons by 2050 while creating economic, environmental, and health benefits.” These would match approximately the goals enunciated in the law (RCW 70.235) of 25% reduction by 2035 and 50% by 2050. They would not, however, meet the more ambitious goals of 40% by 2035 and 80% by 2050 proposed in a bill this session (and demanded in a court case by Our Children’s Trust). The text does allow for revision of the goals if the current law changes.

There are a number of environmental justice provisions in the initiative. For example, it addresses investments in low-income communities: “There shall be sufficient investments made from the clean air and clean energy account to prevent or eliminate the increased energy burden of people with lower incomes as a result of actions to reduce pollution, including the pollution fees collected from large emitters under this chapter. At a minimum, fifteen percent of the clean air and clean energy account is dedicated to investments that directly reduce the energy burden of people with lower incomes.”

It also addresses a “just transition” of fossil fuel industry workers who might be displaced by clean energy: “Within four years of setting up the clean air and clean energy account, a minimum balance of fifty million dollars of the account shall be set aside, replenished annually, and maintained for a worker-support program for bargaining unit and non-supervisory fossil fuel workers who are affected by the transition away from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy.”

There are provisions for Native American groups: Begin Quote:

  • “Moneys in the account may not be used for projects that would violate tribal treaty rights or result in significant long-term damage to critical habitat or ecological functions. Investments from this account must result in long-term environmental benefit and increased resiliency to the impacts of climate change.”
  • “Relocating communities on tribal lands that are impacted by flooding and sea level rise.”
  • “Moneys in the account may not be used for projects that would violate tribal treaty rights or result in significant long-term damage to critical habitat or ecological functions. Investments from this account must result in long-term environmental benefit and increased resiliency to the impacts of climate change.”
  • “The environmental and economic justice panel must be co-chaired by one tribal leader and one person that is a representative of the interests of vulnerable populations in pollution and health action areas that are not tribal lands. In addition to the co-chairs, the panel shall consist of two members representing union labor with expertise in economic dislocation, clean energy economy, or energy-intensive trade-exposed industries and five members, including at least one tribal leader and at least two non-tribal leaders representing the interest of vulnerable populations in pollution and health action areas.” End Quote

In addition to reducing emissions, the fees would be used for environmental projects such as the following: Begin Quote:

  • Restore and protect estuaries, fisheries, and marine shoreline habitats, and prepare for sea level rise;
  • Increase the ability to remediate and adapt to the impacts of ocean acidification;
  • Reduce flood risk and restore natural floodplain ecological function;
  • Increase the sustainable supply of water and improve aquatic habitat, including groundwater mapping and modeling; or
  • Improve infrastructure treating stormwater from previously developed areas within an urban growth boundary designated under chapter 70A RCW, with a preference given to projects that use green stormwater infrastructure.
  • Enhancing community preparedness and awareness before, during, and after wildfires;
  • Developing and implementing resources to support fire suppression, prevention, and recovery for tribal communities impacted or potentially impacted by wildfires;
  • Relocating communities on tribal lands that are impacted by flooding and sea level rise; and
  • Developing and implementing education programs and teacher professional development opportunities at public schools to expand awareness of and increase preparedness for the environmental, social, and economic impacts of climate change and strategies to reduce pollution. End Quote.

Also, businesses and groups could on their own develop programs that would give them credits against the carbon fees that they would pay: “A qualifying light and power business or gas distribution business may claim credits for up to one hundred percent of the pollution fees for which it is liable under this chapter. Credits may be authorized for, and in advance of, investment in programs, activities, or projects consistent with a clean energy investment plan that has been approved by the utilities and transportation commission, for investor-owned utilities and gas distribution businesses, or the department of commerce, for consumer-owned utilities.”

From this text it is clear that the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is aiming at inclusion of the largest number of groups to insure sufficient support to pass the initiative. Whether that strategy succeeds depends on how different groups see the balance of costs and benefits.

 

 

Legislature Passes Voting Rights Bills

One of our long-term priorities has been voting rights, and I received the following message from Speaker Chopp:

I am happy to let you know that the House and Senate have finally passed the Washington Voting Rights Act (SB 6002), same-day voter registration (SB 6021/2297) and automatic voter registration (SB 6353/HB 2595). This package of bills will help strengthen the voices of underrepresented voters and increase access to democracy. I have supported these critical pieces of legislation for several years now, and appreciate your strong support of increasing voter access in Washington state.

Thank you for your advocacy.

Sincerely,

Frank Chopp

Speaker of the House

43rd Legislative District | Olympia Office: (360) 786-7920

 

Legislature Passes Legal Financial Obligation Bill

The Senate Ways and Means has passed HB 1783, Legal Financial Obligations – now it goes to the Rules Committee and then the Senate floor for consideration. NOTE: as of March 8 the Senate had passed the bill and it will go to the governor for signature.

– Current interest paid by those convicted on is 12% compounding.  Non payment may result in re-incarceration. This will be abolished.
Kelly Thompson
360.402.9999

Oil Transportation Safety Bill 6269 Hearing

On February 15, the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on Oil Transportation Safety Bill 6269. SSB 6269 proposes to increase the oil spill tax by 2 cents per barrel and apply it to pipelines as well as railroads and vessels. It would raise $1.7 million in the 2018-19 biennium, and $2.7 million in the 2020-1 biennium. The proposal directs the Department of Ecology (ECY) to report on vessel safety in the Salish Sea and hold a forum with tribes and Canada.. ECY is also directed to update contingency plans for dilbit (diluted bitumen, the heavy oil from tar sands in Alberta). Senator Rankin from Orcas Island noted that, from 10% before, 40% of oil now comes through pipelines, so there need to expand the protections against especially tar sands oil (dilbit). Environmental groups (e.g., Sierra Club), the Makah tribe, and county council members testified in favor of bill. Business groups opposed a tax increase, asked for more risk analysis, and take authorization away from ECY.

Capital Gains Tax Bill Hearing

The House Finance Committee will hold a hearing Friday, February 16, on Rep. Kristine Lytton’s (D-Anacortes) bill (HB 2967), which would lower property taxes by imposing a capital gains tax. Good coverage today in Seattle Times (pp. B1-B2).

http://fanwa.org/capital-gains-tax/

Dave Speights
(425) 347-7595 (home)

(425) 238-5974 (cell)

Clean Transportation Bill Passes House Committee

On 1 February  2018, the House Environmental Committee passed HB 2328.  UU Voices testified in favor of this bill on 18 January. The bill adopts California’ vehicle emission standards, and requires manufacturers to target sales of Zero Emission Vehicles (think electric powered cars) to state residents.  California won a court case to set their own standards for emissions, and Washington can adopt those standards. This is an important step in creating the “green wall” along the West coast along with Oregon and California,

The Washington Senate Energy, Environment and Technology is sitting on Bill 6098 – the companion bill to House 2328.  Sen Ranker and Hunt are sponsors.  Carlyle, Chair (D)Palumbo, Vice Chair (D)EricksenBrownHawkinsHobbsMcCoyRankerSheldonWellman are on the committee.
Please contact Legislators to pass this legislation.  

Kelly Thompson
360.402.9999

Climate Lobby Day January 22, 2018

UU Voices and several UU members from around the state participated in the Climate Lobby Day on January 22, 2018. The day was organized by Climate Solutions and Audubon Society of Washington. Speakers from each organization described various climate proposals at the legislature, including clean fuel, clean electric power and carbon tax bills. (For more on the carbon tax bill, see separate blog.) Governor Inslee addressed the group and then we went to the capitol to meet with legislators. Generally speaking, most legislators seemed receptive to these climate proposals, some citing the fact that businesses prefer a legislative approach to climate versus the initiative process. This indicates that some version of a carbon tax and other climate bills may well pass the legislature this year, unlike previous legislatures. Stay Tuned