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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.

Confirmed Cases: 31865

Reported Deaths: 539
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7022136
Marion456992
Washington441759
Umatilla293941
Clackamas234661
Malheur158926
Jackson11094
Lane109616
Deschutes79312
Yamhill75013
Jefferson5218
Polk51515
Linn49513
Morrow4946
Lincoln47613
Union4392
Benton2946
Klamath2792
Wasco2793
Hood River2490
Douglas2244
Josephine1952
Columbia1551
Coos1490
Clatsop1310
Baker922
Crook621
Tillamook510
Curry310
Lake290
Wallowa281
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant90
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 799516

Reported Deaths: 15393
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2644146455
Riverside578831179
San Bernardino53359918
Orange526221182
San Diego45596773
Kern31712360
Fresno28019362
Sacramento21872399
Alameda20951397
Santa Clara20756304
San Joaquin20126437
Stanislaus16436345
Contra Costa16238204
Tulare15829259
Ventura12591146
Imperial11741317
San Francisco1094699
San Mateo9714144
Monterey970170
Santa Barbara8973113
Merced8828140
Kings756977
Sonoma7262120
Marin6641114
Solano627863
Madera445865
Placer353544
San Luis Obispo347929
Butte279043
Yolo278255
Santa Cruz22949
Sutter168911
Napa165313
San Benito132111
Yuba11367
El Dorado10884
Mendocino89418
Shasta75916
Lassen7360
Glenn5713
Tehama5334
Lake53011
Nevada5286
Colusa5246
Humboldt4967
Calaveras31414
Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18715
Mono1652
Siskiyou1630
Del Norte1381
Mariposa752
Plumas500
Modoc250
Trinity150
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
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