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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.

Cases: 224547

Reported Deaths: 2877
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah42425618
Washington28176259
Marion24842333
Clackamas20349243
Lane15401176
Jackson13240160
Deschutes1074187
Umatilla988394
Linn644882
Yamhill515882
Klamath498279
Douglas479594
Polk440457
Josephine438076
Malheur370967
Benton354822
Jefferson252842
Coos241040
Columbia213732
Union175924
Wasco160631
Lincoln159122
Crook144724
Hood River128934
Morrow125017
Clatsop123711
Baker116018
Curry86512
Tillamook7985
Grant5657
Lake4868
Harney46611
Wallowa2486
Gilliam881
Sherman872
Wheeler491
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4003787

Reported Deaths: 64620
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles131165624721
Riverside3112424667
San Bernardino3095025265
San Diego3011003805
Orange2856205146
Santa Clara1245862183
Sacramento1178311790
Kern1143421428
Fresno1057321746
Alameda980131290
Ventura845891046
Contra Costa78084836
San Joaquin776151461
Stanislaus666191097
Tulare50731854
San Mateo45255588
Monterey44651528
San Francisco41758565
Solano36525261
Santa Barbara36106469
Sonoma33414331
Merced33321485
Imperial29333746
Placer25624307
Kings23790251
San Luis Obispo22356267
Madera17220249
Santa Cruz16779207
Yolo15149215
Marin15039243
Butte13523205
Shasta13179242
El Dorado11312121
Napa1055282
Sutter10343127
Yuba712950
San Benito632664
Tehama592766
Lassen590526
Nevada568575
Humboldt535154
Mendocino485652
Tuolumne469173
Lake440866
Amador395348
Siskiyou259640
Glenn248127
Colusa238118
Calaveras235658
Del Norte174710
Inyo148238
Mono13395
Plumas7926
Modoc5767
Mariposa5377
Trinity4696
Sierra1370
Alpine910
Unassigned810
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