Seattle City Council endorses state carbon tax on November ballot
Seattle City Council voted to endorse a state initiative on the ballot in November, imposing a carbon “fee” on the state’s biggest polluters.
Sponsored by Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Seattle City Council passed a resolution to endorse I-1631. The initiative is the latest measure on Washington state’s ballot looking to levy a carbon tax in an effort to reduce the impact of climate change.
Washington voted down a similar measure in 2016, while another proposed state carbon tax died in the Legislature earlier this year.
Following a report released just this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the hope from the city council is that people will realize just how close the planet is to a global crisis.
“This is absolutely at our doorstep, this is not in the future,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant said. “The question is not about scientific consensus, or the understanding of ordinary people globally. Frankly, this is a question of political will.”
“What the science tells us is that we have about a dozen years to get our act together,” Councilmember O’Brien said.
The IPCC’s report says as much, claiming that there is “a strong risk of crisis as early as 2040.” It goes on to estimate that a carbon tax of $27,000 per ton of carbon would be a necessity by 2100. I-1631 levies a $15-a-ton tax, labeled by the legislation as a “fee” to get around restrictions that put tax revenue in a general fund that wouldn’t necessarily be used to combat climate change.
Criticism for I-1631 includes exemptions for some of the state’s biggest polluters, with the fee focusing primarily on the oil and petroleum industry.
“There are, as we know, some weaknesses in 1631,” admitted Sawant. “Most importantly it has large exemptions for some polluting companies based on the components that are being taxed.”
Additionally, the “No on 1631” campaign argues that citizens would be hit hard at the pumps, claiming that gas prices could go up by as much as 14 cents a gallon.
The debate will continue to ramp up as we approach the November election, especially for a measure that state voters have been consistently reluctant to support.