Washington and Oregon states both have put forward pollution pricing plans to their legislatures for approval this year. BP photo.
Pollution pricing already in place in California, British Columbia
By the end of 2018, California, Oregon, Washington states as well as the province of British Columbia could all have pollution pricing plans in place, according to a report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Currently, British Columbia and California already have a price on pollution. This month, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee called for a carbon tax and Oregon legislators put forward a “cap and invest” system.
“It is time to step up and give our citizens what they demand and deserve — and what is the law — which is a fight against climate change and the damaging health effects of carbon pollution,” the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports Democrat Inslee said in his State of the State speech earlier this month.
Inslee has proposed a $20 per ton tax on industrial carbon emissions. This would increase by 3.5 per cent annually above the rate of inflation to deter rising carbon emissions.
Money raised by the Washington state proposal would be spent on climate mitigation and expanding public transit, subsidizing home insulation and improving the health of the state’s forests.
The tax would also boost consumer costs for heating oil, gasoline and electricity in areas of the state not served by hydropower. The governor’s office estimates the tax may boost electricity prices by 4 per cent per unit, natural gas by 9 per cent and gasoline 6 per cent per gallon.
Islee’s office says the price increases “are well within the range of normal price fluctuation for oil and gas, and normal rate increases for utilities”.
The tax is expected to raise about $3.3 billion per year in the first four years.
“We are still reviewing the details, but, yes, we think the policy gets the big pieces right and we are broadly supporting it,” Carbon Washington Executive Director Kyle Murphy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Both the Washington and Oregon policies are designed to make industrial carbon dioxide emitters pay some costs associated with the damages caused by rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. They also offer incentives to reduce those emissions.
While Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown is less outspoken about her state’s “cap and invest” system, which the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports is less developed than Washington’s plan, early estimates show the system could raise up to $1.8 billion annually.
This money could be reinvested in renewable energy, low-carbon transportation and other environmentally friendly options.
Some groups supporting the pollution pricing plans are concerned money raised by the plans will not be used for the greatest good.
Front and Centered spokesperson Aiko Schaefer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation “we would like to see the bill strengthened in terms of ensuring that communities that are highly impacted both have greater investment and have a voice in the process.”
The plans have received strong support from citizens of both states as over 50 per cent of Republicans and 90 per cent of Democrats believe in climate change.
“I believe we have to pay for our waste,” handyman Ed Dep told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Mitigating climate change is a cost we should be willing to pay.”
Climate justice activists like Aiko Schaefer say the are looking for adherence to one principle. “We don’t want to make people poorer in the process,” Schaefer said.
If the measures are passed by the state legislatures, the three West Coast states along with BC would be part of a united Pacific front on climate change.