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Initiative 1631, I-1631
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I-1631 carbon fee continues to lag behind in early voting

A coal fired power plant. (AP)

Washington state’s carbon fee initiative appears to be going up in smoke as it fails to pass with just 43.9 percent of early vote counts.

Initiative 1631 proposed to place a $15 per metric ton fee on carbon emissions in Washington, starting in 2020. That fee would go up by $2 every following year. Revenue from the fee would be managed by a board and dedicated to environmental purposes.

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Proponents have said that the fee would send a market signal to encourage cleaner and renewable energy.  Bill Gates supported the initiative campaign. Gates argued that the initiative will help nuclear and hydropower succeed in Washington, while fostering a clean energy business environment. Gates and his wife Melinda donated $1 million to the campaign effort. Initiative supporters raised more than $11.2 million ahead of the vote.

But I-1631 has faced steep opposition, largely funded by the petroleum industry, arguing that it will result in higher energy costs for customers. More than $22.1 million was raised by committees in opposition to the initiative, with additional millions coming from Phillips 66, BP America, and other companies.

Other critics such as University of Washington Meteorologist Cliff Mass said that the initiative failed to go far enough while handing authority over the revenue to an unelected board. He argued that a revenue-neutral carbon fee would work best, which I-1631 is not.

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