Viewpoints: Will I-1631’s carbon fee help or hinder?

Viewpoints: Will I-1631’s carbon fee help or hinder?

Pilchuck Audubon says it will aid the environment. A union says we’ll lose jobs and see higher costs.

I-1631 will protect the environment and invest in clean energy solutions.

By Cynthia Easterson

For The Herald

For more than 100 years Audubon has proven a strong advocate for birds and the habitats needed to sustain healthy populations.

As one of Snohomish County’s largest environmental non-profits, Pilchuck Audubon Society also cares deeply about families, friends and neighbors who are in need of clean water, clean air and healthy communities. We recognize that the threat of climate change is not only hazardous to birds but to our children, grandchildren and future generations.

The science is clear — greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are changing our climate faster than people or wildlife can adapt. A groundbreaking report, published by Audubon scientists in 2014, revealed that rising temperatures are curtailing the range of 588 North American bird species, causing 314 of those species to be threatened or endangered by climate change. In Washington State, 189 species of birds are at risk.

To protect these bird populations and support the communities that hold them dear, Washington state needs to quickly move to a 100 percent fossil-free energy system. Investing in clean energy solutions, healthy forests and resilient communities is critical to getting us to that goal.

For these reasons, Pilchuck Audubon Society supports immediate progress on climate action and strongly urges you to vote yes on Initiative 1631.

I-1631 is endorsed by a broad coalition of Washingtonians looking for practical solutions to climate change, including leading scientists, environmental and clean-energy advocates, health professionals, businesses, labor unions, faith leaders, communities of color and tribal nations.

I-1631 is an important first step to ensure clean air and clean water for everyone in Washington and gives us the chance to pass on a healthier state to the next generation. Fees collected by I-1631 would put our state on a carbon-free trajectory by directing 70 percent of the revenue toward clean energy investments. The rest of the fee revenue supports clean water and healthy forest initiatives. It would enhance vibrant, sustainable communities — especially those most affected by climate change and the much-needed clean energy transition.

Audubon Washington, the state chapter of National Audubon, has taken a lead on supporting this and other climate policies aimed at reducing Washington’s carbon pollution by 50 million metric tons by 2050, while investing millions to increase the resilience of our water and forests to the impacts of climate change.

This includes restoring and protecting estuaries, fisheries and marine shoreline habitats vital for birds to survive. It also includes programs to improve forest health and reduce vulnerability to changes in hydrology, insect and disease infestation, wildfires and drought. This is critical support that will protect important bird habitats now and in the future.

Pilchuck Audubon Society has joined other chapters across the state to lobby our legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee to act on climate change and pass solutions that will reduce carbon emissions. Despite these efforts, the state has failed to pass any substantive climate policies for the past 12 years. We have no more time to wait.

It is easy to forget that this planet is not simply a commodity to be exploited, but a community to which we all belong. Where birds survive, people thrive. We know that many of our most beloved bird populations are already declining due to climate change, but even more important are the rising impacts to people from declining water quality, increased drought and massive forest fires, and worsening air pollution.

A yes vote on I-1631 supports healthy habitats for birds and wildlife, and healthy places for all of us to live, work and play. A yes vote on I-1631 says we care about future generations. A yes vote on I-1631 lets us work together to build a new clean energy economy, good paying jobs and a sustainable future for all. A yes vote on I-1631 says we must act on climate now.

Cynthia Easterson is president of the Pilchuck Audubon Society, based in Snohomish.

I-1631 will add to the costs of energy and result in job losses.

By Steve Pendergrass

For The Herald

As president of the Iron Workers District Council of the Pacific Northwest, it is my responsibility to protect the good-paying jobs of our union’s hard-working brothers and sisters.

These jobs generate honest wages for an honest day’s work, provide benefits and health care to our members and their families and safeguard the living standards of our working- and middle-class communities. Our membership, both past and present, have fought long and hard to ensure our union jobs are safe, inclusive, fair and equitable. And so, I take very seriously any threat to what our members have earned.

While reducing carbon emissions is an admirable goal, I believe Initiative 1631, if passed, will have a damaging effect on our area’s current era of growth and prosperity, and eventually cost hard-working people good jobs.

In Washington state, and especially in Snohomish County, we have all grown tired of excessive taxation without anything to show for our money. Our property taxes have skyrocketed, our vehicle tabs will soon border on unaffordable, our cost of living continues to increase; all while serious problems such as homelessness and drug addiction continue to plague our communities. The tax money is there, but the government accountability is not.

Adding yet another tax — or fee — to our community, this time directly targeting employers that provide good paying jobs in the industrial and building trades, will have harmful consequences for our state’s workers. The large burden of this fee could mean the elimination of essential jobs, or see employers leave the state altogether. I also believe this fee will deter companies considering Washington as a future home from doing business in our state.

Beyond the loss of jobs, it’s clear the working people of Washington will also bear the brunt of this fee at the gas pump and through increases in utility bills. Should I-1631 pass, we can expect the price of gas to jump an estimated 14 cents in the first year of implementation and continue to rise into the foreseeable future . Our gas and electric bills will also go up, putting an undue burden on low-income and working families to shoulder the costs. Iron workers are working-class people, and we can’t in good conscience support an initiative that will make it even more expensive to live in Washington state.

Should this initiative pass, and the money be collected, who decides where that money goes? I challenge anyone who supports I-1631 to clearly answer that question. The reality is that the funds from the carbon fee will be allocated by a public oversight board made up of unelected appointees and members, each with little or no accountability to the voters of this state. To actually get anything done, proposals for spending the money will have to go through a dizzying maze of consultations, be reviewed and discussed by numerous panels, committees and sub-committees, and also satisfy several defined rules, criteria and processes. It shouldn’t be up to an unaccountable group of people mired in bureaucracy to decide how best to spend the hard-earned dollars collected from this community’s taxpayers.

We understand that carbon pollution is an important issue that needs to be addressed. But we believe there should be a way to fight for the future without sacrificing the present. To hastily pass an initiative in the name of a righteous cause, while at the same time jeopardizing the livelihoods of working people is contradictory and irresponsible.

We believe we can fight climate change and carbon pollution without jeopardizing jobs, without burdening working families with increased utility costs, and without handing over our money to an unelected board with no accountability to the public. We believe I-1631 falls short of its admirable goals, and we must instead focus our energy on a better way forward. That is why the Northwest Iron Workers Council soundly opposes I-1631 and encourages all our members and fellow citizens to do the same.

Steve Pendergrass is president of the Iron Workers District Council of the Pacific Northwest, based in Edmonds.

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