Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks through the Capitol rotunda in Olympia on Tuesday during a visit hosted by Gov. Jay Inslee to participate in meetings discussing the governor’s proposed tax on fossil fuel emissions. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks through the Capitol rotunda in Olympia on Tuesday during a visit hosted by Gov. Jay Inslee to participate in meetings discussing the governor’s proposed tax on fossil fuel emissions. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Kerry lends Inslee a hand selling the idea of a carbon tax

The secretary of state under President Barack Obama was an architect of the Paris climate accord.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee brought in a political heavyweight Tuesday to help close the deal on his long-sought carbon tax.

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent the afternoon at the state Capitol, where he sought to help Inslee convince lawmakers that taxing carbon emissions is a critical weapon in the fight against the destructive effects of climate change.

Kerry, who served as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, was an architect of the Paris climate accord and signed the carbon emission reduction agreement on behalf of the United States in 2016.

Kerry told reporters that while the U.S. is pulling out of the agreement, states such as Washington can lead on the issue.

“People are still looking to the United States and what we do, even if it’s several states, is profoundly important,” said Kerry, a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts and presidential candidate in 2004.

He also stressed this is not only about reducing pollution but also building economies. Those states and countries at the forefront of this global climate change battle are “rushing to the marketplace to create the jobs of the future,” he said.

Kerry’s visit came as carbon tax supporters prepare for a critical hearing on Senate Bill 6203 on Thursday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

This bill is Inslee’s latest attempt to pass a carbon pricing scheme. And with three weeks left in the session, it faces long odds of passing just as its predecessors since 2013.

It would impose a new tax on each metric ton of carbon emissions. Initially the revenue would be used to balance the state budget but in time dollars would be spent on emission reduction efforts, transit and other alternative forms of transportation and assisting rural communities.

Inslee proposed a fee of $20 per metric ton of carbon emissions. Last week, a Senate panel rewrote then approved the bill. One change made by the Democrat-led panel cut the fee in half.

On Tuesday, Democratic senators drafted another version. This one proposes a fee of $12 per metric ton beginning July 1, 2019. Starting in 2021, the price would climb $2 a year until reaching a cap of $30 a ton.

Kerry lunched Tuesday with those working to push the bill through the Legislature including Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, Democratic Sens. Reuven Carlyle, of Seattle, and Guy Palumbo, of Maltby, and Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, of Burien.

Kerry told reporters he wasn’t in town to participate in the political negotiations among legislators. Success will rely on “an element of compromise,” he said. “I think all of them can come around a program of common sense.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets members of the Washington State House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets members of the Washington State House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Palumbo said Kerry struck a nerve when he shared how solar and alternative energy industries are booming in places like China, which are aggressively tackling this issue.

“We’re missing out on the economics of it. It is not true that this is going to hurt our economy,” he said. “It was really good to hear him. I think it will be helpful to the cause.”

Kerry also stopped by the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate, and took part in a group meeting with representatives of businesses, tribes, environmental groups and unions. Among those represented were Avista Corp., Alcoa, Kaiser, Microsoft, Climate Solutions, The Nature Conservancy, the Nisqually and Suquamish tribes, Puget Sound Energy, the Washington Environmental Council and the Washington State Labor Council.

While Kerry did not visit the Republican caucuses, some GOP lawmakers said they had planned to attend a reception with Kerry hosted by Inslee.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, the ranking minority member of the Senate energy committee, is one.

He said it’s nice to have celebrities like Kerry visit but didn’t expect it to change the dialogue.

“I think a lot of people in the Legislature have concerns about Gov. Inslee’s energy tax,” he said. “I’m not feeling a lot of urgency in the Legislature to get it passed this year.”

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A chair lift sits idle on Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
A blizzard of Stevens Pass complaints hits the AG’s office

The ski resort’s new manager says he’s working to address frustrations about lines and closures.

Branden McKinnon (Family photo)
Lawsuit blames mother’s unsecured gun for Marysville boy’s death

Branden McKinnon, 12, got hold of a gun belonging to his mother, a Department of Corrections lieutenant. His father is suing.

Police: Everett man left family member with life-threatening injuries

An Everett man, 23, was in jail on $100,000 bail after being accused of confronting women and attacking a relative.

Michelle Roth is a registered nurse in the Providence Emergency Department on Sunday, January 23, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Nurses face burnout as hospital staffing shortage continues

‘It feels like there has been a mass exodus in the last two to three months.’

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
A fake vax card could land you in jail if this bill passes

Here’s what’s happening on Day 15 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

A SWAT team responds during an 8-hour standoff between police and a man brandishing a knife at a home in south Edmonds on Sunday night. (Edmonds Police Department)
9-hour Edmonds standoff with knife-wielding man ends in arrest

The man reportedly threatened to kill his family. Police spent hours trying to get him to come outside.

Security footage depicting an armed robbery at Buds Garage in Everett on Tuesday, Jan.18, 2022. (Contributed photo)
Everett pot shop robbed twice; others targeted in recent months

Armed robbers have hit Buds Garage off Everett Avenue twice since December.

An artist’s rendering of the 4,600-square-foot Progressive Animal Welfare Society hospital south of Snohomish that will care for injured and orphaned wild animals. (PAWS)  20220121
Bears, bobcats, oh my: Wildlife center takes shape near Snohomish

In Lynnwood, PAWS could care for six bears at a time. Now, they’ll have space for 30 — and a lot more.

Island County jail slammed with first COVID outbreak

Three cell blocks are in quarantine and about a third of the jail staff are out with COVID.

Most Read