While SB 5373 is not one of the environmental priorities identified at the Justice Summit, a number of people have expressed interest in the bill. The bill appears to be dead for the session, but there is some possibility of its revival in the budget negotiations. Information below provides some background and notes on a hearing on March 4, 2021.
Provisions of the bill:
- It imposes a carbon pollution tax beginning January 1, 2022, equal to $25 per metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the sale or use of all fossil fuel within the state of Washington, except for the sale or use of electricity in Washington generated using fossil fuels.
- It increases the tax rate annually by inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, plus 5 percent beginning July 1, 2023.
- It establishes a ten-year climate finance program using carbon tax revenue and a bond program to reduce GHG emissions and increase the resilience of Washington’s natural resources to the impacts of climate change
Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee Hearing on March 4, 2021
Representative Lekankoff (D, Olympia) explained Native American interest in a stable climate, for clean air and water and the fate of the orcas. Washington has been progressive and this bill reinforces its climate action.
Representative Shewmake (D, Bellingham) called for investment in Covid recovery and lauded the just transition provisions of the bill and the transportation budget investments impacted.
Representative Hackney (D, Seattle) discussed air pollution in south Seattle communities of color and said the bill would reduce this pollution.
Representative Harris-Talley (D, Seattle and Renton) also mentioned pollution in communities of color. She mentioned the state’s regressive tax system and said the bill would be more progressive. She lauded the provisions for local control of investments in the bill.
Mayor Boudreau of Mount Vernon said that infrastructure funding is needed for cities and rural areas to insure broadband Internet.
Cindy Wolf, San Juan County Commissioner, lauded the bill for infrastructure funding including charging stations for electric vehicles and renewable energy stations on the islands.
Jamie Stevens, San Juan County Commissioner, also lauded the bill for infrastructure and mentioned sea level rise as a problem on the islands.
Seattle Audubon mentioned the impact of climate change on bird populations. Ag and Rural Caucus mentioned that bill supports jobs in rural areas, invests in infrastructure, and gives farmers and loggers time to find alternative transportation. Agricultural Association mentioned fields and farms programs that support rural residents in updating infrastructure. Puget Sound Association of Retired Activists mentioned its programs for infrastructure. Blaine council member said the infrastructure provisions are good for small cities. Bellingham Port Commissioner said infrastructure would help ports. Earth Ministry said people of faith care about climate change, and said investments would make a real difference in people’s lives. Faith Action Network said bill will benefit people in rural areas, and mentioned the pandemic impacts on communities of color that can be alleviated by carbon bonds. Orcas Island businessman lauded bill for rural infrastructure investments and mentioned electric ferry provisions. Retired teacher lauded provisions for school funding and broadband Internet. Retired refinery worker said the benefits outweigh costs of doing nothing. DNR (Department of Natural Resources) mentioned wildfire threat of carbon change, suggested changes for forest health. Skagit County resident, and UW professor, mentioned provisions on equity and community investments. Squaxit Island tribe referred to threats to fisheries from climate change, and the need for protection for riparian zones. NAACP said that bill would support good local green jobs in communities of color. Court Olson, People for Climate Action, said bill recognizes carbon provisions and investments for building. US Oil Refinery said they have made plans for carbon reductions and also supports clean fuels. WWU professor said investments are good provisions. King County said carbon pricing is necessary for emissions reductions and clean investments. Marine ecologist said climate has adversely affected marine species. 350 Yakima said that Yakima has passed climate emergency ordinance and said extreme weather has been a major problem of climate change. Carbon Washington said bill has major support because it was crafted by many communities.
Jeff Hack opposed the taxes as additional burdens on people suffering from economic challenges during COVID. Tim Eyman said voters are against taxes and this would impose another unpopular tax. Pacific Propane Gas Association discussed energy pricing from other bills as well this one; revenue from carbon taxes should assist energy sector. Washington Policy Center said the bill looks good but has flaws in spending provisions. Association of Washington Business said bill does not help EITEs (Energy Intensive Trade Exposed enterprises) with their problems from carbon taxes. Washington Port Association said bill provisions for infrastructure do not properly fund transportation. Northwest Gas Association suggested changes in investments for ratepayer benefits, and provisions on authority. Washington Business Alliance had concerns about debt service implications of provisions. Washington Farm Bureau opposes a carbon tax but can live with some exemptions for farm vehicles. Washington Alliance of Wheat Growers said rural users will be highly impacted by carbon taxes.