High stakes, high spending in Washington State

Source: By KELSEY TAMBORRINO, Politico • Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Next week voters in Washington state will decide on a ballot measure that could make their state the first in the nation to require polluters to pay a fee on carbon pollution. But before voters head to the polls, a showdown is unfolding between grass-root environmental activists — who have the backing of billionaires like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg — and the oil and gas industry that has raised about twice as much to defeat the ballot initiative known as I-1631 .

The fee would start at $15 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020 and increase by $2 per year — plus inflation — until 2035. Seventy percent of the funds raised under the fee would go to pay for “clean air and clean energy” projects, 25 percent for “clean water and forest” projects and 5 percent would help communities adapt to climate change impacts, Pro’s Anthony Adragna reports, with estimatessuggesting I-1631 could generate $2.3 billion over the first five fiscal years.

Backers of the ballot measure have raised $15.2 million with the help of big-name donors like Gates and Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs, Anthony reports. But they are facing an opposition campaign that has raised nearly $30 million almost entirely from oil and gas companies, including BP America, Phillips 66 and Koch Industries. Opponents say they worry the funds raised by the carbon fee would not be spent effectively but could increase costs for low-income consumers.

One statewide poll from this month put the ballot initiative on course to pass with support of 50 percent of voters versus 36 percent opposed. “We believe strongly that the policy is built to reduce emissions and be effective and that it covers the economy-wide emissions in a reasonable and effective approach,” Mike Stevens, state director for the Nature Conservancy, said in an interview. “This is a carefully constructed policy that very carefully evaluated the issues of exemptions and public oversight.”