Groups form alliance to tackle climate change by initiative

SEATTLE — A coalition of diverse groups is launching a new initiative effort to tackle climate change, raising the prospect that Washington voters could face two statewide ballot measures on carbon pollution next year.

 

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy on Tuesday announced plans to put a climate initiative before voters in November 2016. Their effort aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, put a price on carbon pollution and use that money to invest in clean energy, communities or other programs, though details have not been worked out yet.


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The idea is to curb carbon pollution while also raising money for jobs, clean energy and minority and low-income communities that are disproportionately harmed by climate change, said Rich Stolz, executive director of OneAmerica, which is part of the alliance.

“What we need is a measure that moves the ball forward, (that) doesn’t solve one problem and create more problems,” he said, adding that racial and social equity will be central to it. The alliance includes more than 100 supporters, including labor, environmental, faith-based and minority groups.

Meanwhile, organizers of a competing effort, Initiative 732, want to tax every metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions of fossil fuels sold or used in the state. It would add a $15 per metric ton tax starting in July 2017, rise to $25 a ton in the second year, and gradually increase over time. I-732 revenues would be used to cut the state sales tax by one point, eliminate business taxes for manufacturers and help working families, supporters said.

The proposal is modeled after a revenue-neutral carbon tax that British Columbia put in place in 2008.

Joseph Ryan, a board member of the I-732 campaign, said Tuesday that he welcomed the alliance’s announcement and wishes them well.

His group still plans to move forward with its own effort, said Ryan, a past president of Washington Environment Council, which is a member of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.

The dual initiative efforts come as the state Department of Ecology is writing rules to cap greenhouse gases from about 35 large industrial emitters in the state, just months after Gov. Jay Inslee failed to pass his ambitious cap-and-trade plan.

The governor directed the agency to come up with a binding limit on carbon pollution after failing to get legislative approval for his proposal to charge emissions from oil refineries, power plants and fuel suppliers.

I-732 supporters need to collect about 246,372 valid signatures from registered voters by the end of the year to put the measure before the Legislature next year. If lawmakers don’t act, it would go on the 2016 ballot.

Ryan said they have collected 256,000 signatures so far and feel confident they’ll get enough by the end of this year.

Leaders of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy have opposed the carbon-tax initiative, saying their polling results show that voters will reject that measure. They also say it doesn’t do enough to address the disproportionate impact of climate change on low-income and minority communities.

The alliance is working to finalize the details of its initiative. Jan. 8 is the first day supporters of the alliance proposal can file their initiative. The group would then have until July 8 to turn in signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

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