As we’ve previously written, Initiative 1631 would inject hundreds of millions of dollars per year directly into communities in Washington by imposing a carbon pollution fee on businesses that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide or sell carbon-laden fuels. Revenues from the fee would help our state transition to a dynamic, low-carbon economy with cleaner air and water. And a substantial portion of the new revenue would be rightly invested directly into communities that have been most harmed by decades of air pollution.
Yet to persuade voters to reject this commonsense initiative on the November ballot, opponents (mostly massive, multinational oil companies) frequently reference an unrealistically high estimate of the pollution fee’s average cost to households. While the measure would appropriately increase the costs of carbon-intensive fuels, the actual average impact on households is up to $100 per year lower than opponents are claiming.
In reality, I-1631 would raise high-carbon fuel and energy costs by an average of $13 per month per Washington household in 2020. That’s a small price to pay for cleaner air, healthier communities, and more efficient energy and transportation infrastructure – all of which would create new good-paying jobs in the clean energy, or “green jobs” sector. This estimate is derived from the same model used by the state Office of Financial Management to estimate the amount of revenue that would be generated each year under I-1631.¹
It’s also important to note that carbon pollution fee costs would vary significantly across households. People with SUVs; long, single-driver commutes; and large, poorly insulated homes would likely pay more than $13 dollars per month. People with more efficient cars, shorter commutes (or who carpool, bike, or use public transportation), and well-insulated homes would pay less.
Further, the measure would devote significant resources ($144 million in the 2021-22 budget cycle alone) to reduce energy costs for low-income households. These resources would be used to assist Washingtonians with low incomes with weatherizing their homes, purchasing energy efficient appliances and vehicles, and installing solar panels. It would also provide them with cash rebates to offset additional higher costs. All these actions would reduce carbon pollution, stimulate local economies, and generate good-paying jobs in the clean energy sector.
The bottom line is that the benefits of I-1631 – cleaner air, improved public health, clean energy and transportation infrastructure investments in communities, and new good-paying green jobs, just to name a few – far outweigh its costs. That’s why the Budget & Policy Center enthusiastically joins Tribal Nations, businesses, climate scientists, public health experts, and many organizations representing communities of color to endorse I-1631. It is an equitable and inclusive way to build a cleaner and more prosperous future for all Washingtonians, especially those who have been denied their just share of the state’s growing prosperity.
Voters shouldn’t let the overly broad and unrealistically high cost estimate circulated by large oil companies and climate-science deniers dissuade them from approving I-1631 on the November ballot.