This November, Washington voters are likely to get the chance to pass a carbon fee that has broad support from environmental and racial justice advocates.
That's a marked difference from back in 2016, when a carbon tax initiative bitterly divided the state's environmental community and lost 59 to 41 percent.
The campaign behind Initiative 1631 said it turned in more than 375,000 signatures to the Washington Secretary of State's office today. Initiative campaigns need at least 259,622 valid signatures to appear on the ballot.
I-1631 would impose a fee of $15 per metric ton on carbon emissions beginning in 2020 and then increase that fee by $2 per year until 2035. Revenue from the fee would fund clean energy and clean water projects, financial assistance and training for fossil fuel workers, assistance for low-income people whose energy costs may increase, and other efforts. Supporters say creating a fee rather than a tax allows them to direct the revenue toward these programs. A 15-member public oversight board within the governor's office would oversee the spending.
A carbon tax has repeatedly failed in the state legislature.
The last carbon measure on a Washington ballot was I-732 in 2016. That measure would have taxed fossil fuels and then, in order to be revenue neutral, cut sales taxes and taxes on manufacturers and funded tax rebates for some low-income residents.
I-732 split the state's environmental community. The state Sierra Club was so divided that the issue led to a particularly Parks and Recreation-style internal coup. (The state group had opposed the initiative. Then, on a conference call, several members of the organization waited until others had left the call before voting to change the organization's position, the Seattle Times reported.)
At the root of much of the opposition was that labor and environmental groups were already working on the initiative that eventually became I-1631. Opponents also said I-732 failed to include the communities of color who will be hit hardest by climate change.
This year, I-1631 is backed by a broad coalition including labor unions, Casa Latina, Got Green, and environmental organizations including both the Sierra Club and the group that ran I-732.