Human-caused climate change is turning into a “medical emergency” that could result in death and disease for millions, according to British medical journal, The Lancet.
Washington state lawmakers proposed a measure on Thursday to limit carbon pollution that would be the nation’s first if passed.
The carbon fee is part of a transportation funding package that marks Washington’s third major attempt to create such a policy since 2018. Similar state proposals have failed.
At least 10 other states have introduced carbon fee or tax proposals, however, as emissions of the greenhouse gas linked to global warming hit an all-time high last year, scientists found. Washington’s latest proposal also follows a federal report that showed the impacts of climate change are intensifying, including increased extreme weather, poor air quality and food shortages.
Charging $15 per ton of carbon, the fee would raise about $7.9 billion over the next 10 years. The $17.1 billion fee-and-bond package it’s part of also features a 6-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase.
If it passes, said Senate Transportation committee chairman Steve Hobbs, Washington residents would most likely see the most expensive gas in the nation. The carbon fee would add 15 cents per gallon, an increase of 21 cents per gallon.
After voters turned down a 2018 ballot initiative for a carbon tax, Republican state Sen. Curtis King said it was too soon to revisit the issue. Opponents to the ballot measure outspent supporters 2-to-1, spending a total of $30 million to defeat it.
Despite Democratic control of both legislative chambers and support from Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, a 2018 carbon fee bill also died in the Senate.
But proposing a carbon fee is just one of the ways the state is tacking pollution, Washington Environmental Council communications director Nick Abraham told USA TODAY. Several local governments have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, he said, and the state has a slate of pending bills from creating a clean fuel program to building light rail, giving people more options to get around.
The package announced Thursday would also raise fees on property development and commercial, electric and private vehicles, as well as taxes on rental cars, bicycles, and auto parts. Funds would go toward projects including highway maintenance, the state ferry system and federally-mandated culvert replacement projects.
“If you look at this package as a whole it deals with both environmental and infrastructure needs,” Hobbs said.
Sen. Tim Sheldon said the proposal is the best alternative for Republicans. Business and petroleum groups may take interest, Hobbs added, in how the bill limits future fuel standards. It also sets the carbon fee at a fixed rate, without increases over time.
The carbon fee and gas tax account for about $10 billion of the roughly $13.6 billion in fees in the package. Bonds add an additional $3.5 billion, bringing the total to just under $17.1 billion.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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