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Broad-Based Coalition Announces Carbon Cap Initiative To Fight Climate Change

Ted S. Warren
In this April 2, 2010, file photo, a Tesoro Corp. refinery, including a gas flare flame that is part normal plant operations, is shown in Anacortes, Wash.

More than 150 groups in Washington state have come together to form the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. It’s an effort to fight climate change that some are calling “historic in scope.” The consortium has announced plans to put a statewide carbon-capping initiative before voters in 2016. 

The alliance combines the efforts of dozens of broad-based interests, from environmental and faith groups, to businesses and organizations representing people of color. The roster includes lots of big names and has the backing of important lobby groups. Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council-A.F.L.-C.I.O., helped announce the new initiative.

“The labor movement is convinced that the negative impacts of carbon pollution and climate change are hurting our economy; they’re hurting our jobs; they’re hurting our communities; and they’re hurting our health,” he said.

The initiative aims to build on and help enforce the cap on carbon recently put in place by Governor Inslee’s Clean Air Rule. That's the policy he ordered the state Department of Ecology to put in place after his cap-and-trade plan failed to get through the state legislature.  

The alliance says it would invest the carbon fees collected from the biggest polluters into programs meant to ease and accelerate an equitable transition to a renewable energy economy.

Brenna Davis is chair of Washington Business for Climate Action, one of the dozens of groups involved. She says the initiative was developed from the ground up, in collaboration with the business community.

"And we’ve had a lot of input into the process of selecting the policy. We’re looking for the win-win, where business can continue to be profitable, but also the community can benefit and become more resilient,” she said. 

There is also a big emphasis on addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income groups and people of color, who often live closest to highways or industrial sites, where air pollution is the worst. 

The alliance says they have spent the last year building the necessary base of support to succeed at the ballot and hope to start signature gathering early next year.

Meanwhile, a competing initiative for a carbon tax is also underway. It’s modeled after the system in British Columbia. Backers of Initiative 732 have about two-thirds of the signatures needed to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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