Carbon taxes, cap and trade moving forward on a state level

Excerpt from piece originally published on ClimateWire | Benjamin Storrow | 22 Feb 2017

Michael Barrett, a Democratic Massachusetts state senator, reckons that few of his colleagues had ever heard of a state carbon fee when he first proposed it in 2013. Today, he has 62 co-sponsors. Not only that, Senate leadership has made the proposal a priority for the coming legislative session.

Barrett is hardly alone. Blue-state legislators, alarmed by President Trump’s promise to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations, are hustling to advance a series of ambitious climate measures. In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has proposed a $25-per-ton carbon tax to help plug a hole in the state budget (Climatewire, Dec. 14, 2016). It won’t be the only carbon tax Washington lawmakers consider this year. A second proposal to impose a $15-per-ton tax is also on the legislative agenda.

The push for a cap-and-trade system has fresh momentum in neighboring Oregon, where the state Department of Environmental Quality released a study last week asserting that the program could lower emissions without raising consumers’ electric bills. And in California, lawmakers are debating whether to extend the Golden State’s current cap-and-trade system beyond 2020, or replace it with a carbon tax.

“When we’ve heard people in the past say let’s wait for the federal government to act, we don’t hear that anymore,” said Washington state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D), who authored his state’s $15-per-ton bill. “People realize there needs to be state action on this.” The proposals are a reflection of the political landscape. Blue-state lawmakers, emboldened by protests and worried that federal climate action may stall, say they sense new momentum to take action following Trump’s victory.