Potential tax on carbon emissions

California legislation plots path to greener climate, Washington follows

By Sam Deal, Opinion Editor

California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 350 into law Oct. 7. It is now time for Washington state to follow suit.

Also known as The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, the bill aims to greatly reduce the state’s environmental impact. The bill originally included cutting petroleum use in half, but after heavy opposition, that provision was removed.

Although ravaged of its oil reduction policy, the bill sets a new precedent for energy production with a goal of half of the state’s electricity set to come from renewable sources by 2030, while simultaneously doubling standards for energy efficiency.

With the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change set to commence in a little over a month, California’s aggressive plan to reduce emissions will surely be a topic of discussion.

Washington state would be smart to follow Brown’s push and move to improve its own policy on climate change.

This past year we’ve seen firsthand the effects of rising global temperatures in the Evergreen State, obviously displayed in the unprecedented drought and the worst fire season on record.

The Washington State Department of Ecology recently began working on a cap – a limit – for the state’s largest producers of greenhouse gases. This follows the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.

These new federal rules have come under heavy scrutiny as a dozen states have already sued the EPA, accusing the government agency of exceeding its authority.

Washington is not one of these states.

Multiple initiatives for taxing carbon emissions appear to be headed for our 2016 state ballot.

Initiative 732, compiled by non-partisan campaign Carbon Washington, aims to encourage the use of renewable energy while simultaneously lowering sales tax by taxing producers of carbon emissions. I-732 has received over 270,000 signatures.

Another organization, Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, claims they will be putting the finishing touches on a proposal by the end of this year and will begin to gather signatures in early 2016.

Either measure, if passed, would make Washington the first state to tax carbon emissions.

These groups show Washington voters are ready to bring climate change to the forefront ending the undying passivity of lawmakers.

Over 100 years ago in 1908, then-President Teddy Roosevelt said, “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”

That time is now. Finally.