- Lawmakers in nine states have formed a coalition to strengthen their efforts at tackling climate issues at the state level, seeking to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions while searching for market-based solutions.
- Only California has an economy-wide tax on carbon, and some form of that appears to be where the coalition is headed – even if all of the states involved are not on board.
- Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) is opposed to a carbon tax and this week rejected even studyng the idea. Voters in Washington rejected a carbon tax at the polls in 2016, but Gov. Jay Inlsee (D) wants to try again.
The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators announced the coalition Jan. 31, saying that “by coordinating efforts, these legislators are leading a state-based movement to take action on climate.”
NCEL describes the Carbon Costs Coalition as a “multi-state coalition,” but in at least two of the states, there is sustained opposition to a carbon tax. Despite that, members of the coalition say a market-based solution to carbon emissions will work, and might be the only thing that does.
“Across the entire political spectrum, there’s a growing consensus that market-driven programs to address the real costs of carbon emissions are the answer,” Connecticut state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg said in a statement. “While the proposals of each state in this coalition vary, we are united in our end goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health and accurately account for the cost of carbon.”
In addition to Connecticut, states in the coalition include: Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The coalition has been “meeting informally” for about two years, according to NCEL which, along with the Meridian Institute, has been lending coordination assistance.
The eastern state members of the coalition already engage in a regional greenhouse gas trading regime as a mechanism to reduce carbon emissions. All of the coalition members are taking a variety of steps to reduce emissions.
NCEL Executive Director Jeff Mauk said states are not waiting to see federal leadership and instead are tackling the problem on their own. “Carbon pricing is a market-based strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that is being praised by economists and leaders from across the political spectrum,” he said.
But while some lawmakers from the nine states may support a carbon tax, that doesn’t mean the state at large does.
Vermont is a member of the coalition, but last week Gov. Scott made clear he is opposed to a carbon tax. In a letter to members of the state’s Climate Action Commission, which Scott formed, he rejected calls for a study of market-based mechanisms.
“We know Vermonters cannot afford a carbon tax. It would also be highly regressive,” Scott wrote. “A regional carbon pricing system would also put the region … at another competitive disadvantage.
While Scott has rejected the study, a group of legislators and environmentalists is moving forward on the issue, the non-profit news site VTDigger reports.
Voters in Washington state rejected a carbon tax in the 2016 election. But Gov. Inslee last month released details of a proposed carbon tax on emissions generated by transportation fuels and power plants. The tax would be set initially at $20/ton beginning next July, rising annually by an inflation-adjusted 3.5%. A bill to enact such a proposal was passed Feb. 1 by a state senate policy committee.
Despite any skepticism, Connecticut state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg said “across the entire political spectrum, there’s a growing consensus that market-driven programs to address the real costs of carbon emissions are the answer.”
This post has been updated with additional details about actions in Vermont and Washington.
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