Washington State Voters Reject Carbon Tax

Voters in Washington state on Tuesday rejected a bid to tax carbon dioxide emissions, a stinging defeat for environmentalists after years of attempts to curb climate change through economic incentives.

Posted: Nov 7, 2018 12:11 PM
Updated: Nov 7, 2018 12:21 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Voters in Washington state on Tuesday rejected a bid to tax carbon dioxide emissions, a stinging defeat for environmentalists after years of attempts to curb climate change through economic incentives, CNN projects.

Initiative 1631, which proposed to levy a tax of $15 per metric ton of carbon emissions, would have made Washington the first state in the nation to raise the cost of fossil-fuel intensive activities like driving gas-powered vehicles and heating buildings with natural gas in an effort to encourage clean energy sources like wind and solar power.

A broad coalition of progressive groups, tribes, health advocates, unions, and liberal billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Bill Gates supported the measure, which was crafted to fix some of the problems that led to the failure of a similar effort in 2016.

Revenues from the tax — estimated to reach $1 billion annually by 2023 — would have been devoted to renewable energy projects and helping negatively affected workers, rather than offset by other tax cuts. Also, 1631 would have exempted some large industrial facilities like factories and paper plants, which helped win support from organized labor.

But the full force of the measure would have fallen on oil refiners, who spent heavily to defeat it. The Western States Petroleum Association raised $31.5 million to oppose 1631, mostly from BP America and Phillips 66, both of which have refineries in the state. Proponents raised about $16 million. The measure was poised to lose by several percentage points with the majority of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, drawing majority support only from a handful of counties including King, which contains Seattle.

The defeat in a blue state complicates the path for measures to combat carbon emissions. In recent years, major oil companies like Exxon, Shell, BP, and others have signed on to an effort to create a "fee and dividend" plan that would impose a gradually increasing fee on carbon emissions that would be remitted to citizens, in exchange for phasing out regulations.

From the oil industry's perspective, a federal approach is easier to deal with and creates more certainty than an ever-changing landscape of state-based taxes. But it's also much less likely to pass — the House GOP pushed through a resolution last summer opposing any kind of price on carbon. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican who had introduced a bill that would replace the federal gas tax with a carbon tax, lost his bid for reelection on Tuesday.

Tuesday's elections were a mixed bag for environmental measures across the rest of the country.

California voters rejected a measure that would have repealed a recently-enacted gas tax and required a popular election for any gas or vehicle tax in the future. Florida passed a ban on offshore drilling, becoming the first southern state to do so. Nevadans voted to require that electric utilities get half their energy from renewable sources by 2030.

But Arizona rejected an almost identical measure for their utilities. Colorado voted down a bid to limit where new oil and gas wells could be drilled and Alaskans defeated a measure that would have more strictly regulated development that would impact salmon habitat. Both efforts faced heavy opposition from oil and gas interests.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 387485

Reported Deaths: 5116
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah59768836
Washington41571393
Marion39592504
Clackamas32426376
Lane29856354
Jackson24672350
Deschutes23182185
Umatilla15087180
Linn14488178
Douglas13236286
Josephine10057240
Yamhill9665142
Klamath8979145
Polk813698
Benton605137
Malheur591586
Coos5573106
Columbia423855
Jefferson416865
Lincoln357252
Union336854
Crook330156
Wasco314846
Clatsop258335
Baker217531
Tillamook214345
Hood River211337
Morrow197025
Curry190136
Harney119332
Grant108314
Lake104016
Wallowa74713
Sherman1903
Gilliam1844
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5060666

Reported Deaths: 74152
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles152491227121
San Diego4047084319
Riverside3849455306
San Bernardino3718825944
Orange3329505675
Sacramento1674002423
Kern1565171781
Fresno1558992246
Santa Clara1511691922
Alameda1246581504
San Joaquin1070001833
Ventura1036461188
Contra Costa1032921045
Stanislaus912991413
Tulare856141082
San Francisco56614669
San Mateo56058629
Monterey52340625
Solano47422356
Santa Barbara47035548
Merced44807664
Sonoma42912412
Placer41881468
Imperial38128769
Kings35038358
San Luis Obispo31294358
Madera26005311
Shasta25917440
Butte25295309
Santa Cruz22028222
Yolo21451257
Marin18342248
El Dorado18166161
Sutter14494181
Napa13372104
Yuba1070088
Tehama10230129
Humboldt10043117
Nevada9914103
Mendocino848894
Lassen792355
San Benito775977
Tuolumne767790
Lake6990110
Amador573766
Siskiyou470954
Glenn455136
Calaveras435685
Del Norte371242
Colusa323519
Inyo254345
Plumas19127
Mono18294
Mariposa156718
Trinity98817
Modoc7475
Unassigned2430
Sierra2170
Alpine1060
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