I’m getting déjà vu. Are we talking about a carbon tax again?
Kind of. Back in 2016, voters said nope to a carbon tax. But this proposal is a carbon fee, rather than a tax. Why’s that important? Because under Washington state law, the word “fee” means that the money it collects can’t be spent on any other government expenses, like education, health care, or welfare.
In other words, the money that would be generated through the carbon fee could only be spent on environmental or climate change-related issues around the state.
If passed, Washington would be the first state to have a carbon fee.
Wait, so why didn’t the carbon tax pass in 2016?
Environmental groups and progressives were pretty divided on the tax. Critics said it focused too much on business interests and that it wouldn’t benefit people who are most hurt by climate change: communities of color and low-income Washingtonians.
Got it. So if this carbon fee passes, who exactly is paying for it?
Companies and utilities that haven’t switched to clean energy. The fee would charge entities like fossil fuel companies $15 for every ton of carbon dioxide they put into our atmosphere. Those costs would increase $2 every year until our state meets its greenhouse gas emission goals, at which point the fee would stop increasing. The fee would go into effect in 2020 and is expected to generate more than $5 billion in the first three years.
People who oppose the carbon fee say the problem here is that companies will pass on their emissions bills to consumers– in other words, we’ll end up paying more money for gas and home-heating oil, according to the Washington Policy Center think tank.
And how would that more than $5 billion be spent?
The money would go into a fund to build our state’s green energy infrastructure, help workers in the fossil fuel industry transition to clean energy jobs, clean up waterway pollution, and manage forests to prevent wildfires. Basically: help the environment.
Critics say the spending plan is too vague and that it wouldn’t create jobs. They also aren’t thrilled that plans on how the money gets spent would be managed by a governor-appointed board of 15 unelected people.
Paul Gambill, Evergrey reader and cofounder of a carbon removal startup, worries the board would be seen as a “grab-bag of left leaning activists” who would increase divisions between the political Left and Right. He thinks that could push Republicans and moderates into not taking climate change seriously.
“The best argument I’ve heard is that this is a step, that we have to do something,” he said. “If that’s the best argument the legislation has, it’s probably not good legislation.”
So how do the carbon fee’s supporters think passing this will help me?
Because climate change is exacerbated by burning fossil fuels, and we need to be proactive about finding solutions for clean energy, say supporters.
Many supporters also see this as a social justice issue, since low-income and marginalized communities tend to suffer the brunt of climate-related disasters.
“I would ask them to consider how climate change makes us and our society more dangerous, more violent, more inequitable,” said University of Washington climate scientist and paleoceanographer Sarah Myhre, noting that she was not speaking on the behalf of UW. “It’s not that  is a perfect initiative. It’s that it’s the correct step forward in the right direction.”
So why do the people against it think it will hurt me?
Because energy companies would have to pay more, they would pass on the costs to their customers. And, this will be an especially heavier burden for low-income communities.
Lee Newgent, a retired ironworker and former head of the Washington Building and Trades Council, called the carbon fee a “gas tax” that would hurt anyone who drives to work.
“It’s too much money to do this on the fly,” he said. “It doesn’t pass accountability.”
Are there other reasons why critics aren’t big fans?
Yes. In a word: exemptions. Notably, “eight out of the top twelve carbon emitters in the state,” including a coal-run energy plant in Centralia, aluminum smelters, and aircraft manufacturers.
As for why 1631 exempts aluminum and other industries, supporters say they want those businesses to remain internationally competitive so companies won’t leave and will build clean energy solutions with local resources. The Seattle Times and KING5 have more on that here and here.
Who’s backing each side?
» The Yes on 1631 campaign is supported by organizations advocating for communities of color, Microsoft, and groups representing scientists, environmental groups, and doctors. The Sightline Institute, King County Medical Society, The Olympian, and The Stranger have voiced support for the bill. Tacoma’s The News Tribune’s editorial board ultimately endorsed 1631, but it thoughtfully articulated some reservations.
» The No on 1631 campaign, which is supported by groups representing the farming, construction, and petroleum industries, has raised more than $26 million — a state record — to defeat the carbon fee. UW atmospheric science professor and weather commentator Cliff Mass, The Seattle Times, The Tri-City Herald, The Chronicle, and The Spokesman Review said they wouldn’t support the bill.
Thanks to to Aiko Schaefer, Sarah, Paul, and Lee for their help to better understand this measure! Got more questions on the carbon fee? Send ‘em along and we’ll do our best to find answers.
Smith gets Sach’d. The historic Smith Tower in Pioneer Square is — let’s admit it — the most adorable skyscraper in the city. And it’s now the newest treasure for a company with a lot of it — New York-based financial giant Goldman Sachs. Goldman will be the tower’s fifth owner in the last 15 or so years. We’re not sure exactly what they’d plan to do with it, but we do know that historical landmark protections mean they won’t be messing with that lovely, 96-year-old façade. 🙏 (The Seattle Times)
‘The answer is housing.’ To help our neighbors who live on the streets, we need to find them homes. But since those are in real short supply these days, could we build a big tent to offer some shelter in the meantime? Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda used to think that was a bad idea, because it takes the focus away from building permanent housing. Now, she’s proposing we do it. What made the difference? A visit to a temporary public shelter in Los Angeles. (Crosscut)
Like to listen while you work? Tune in to this Halloween / Dia de los Muertos playlist, playing all week at the Seattle Center’s International Children’s Fountain. Then meet the guy who makes the mix. (MixCloud)
Far from home. Danni Askini, a trans woman who advocates for trans rights, is stepping down as executive director of Seattle’s Gender Justice League after a pretty rough summer. The GJL advocates for the rights of trans and gender diverse people, and death threats from white supremacists and others this year drove Danni to go to Sweden and seek asylum. But now she’s having trouble coming back. The U.S. won’t renew her passport application and she’s struggling to document her U.S. citizenship because she was adopted and grew up in the foster care system. Next up for the GJL: a re-structuring to help ‘em gear up for ever more challenging times. (Gender Justice League, The Local)
☮️ TODAY: Check in with yourself and your business around racial equity at this Impact Hub Lunch + Learn (Pioneer Square)
📚 TOMORROW: Learn how to rekindle your curiosity and creativity from an author who’s not f*cking around (Downtown)
🌃 Friday – Saturday: Get involved in a community conversation to talk about solutions for housing our neighbors living homeless (Pioneer Square)
👂 Wednesday Oct. 31: Learn how to be a better, more effective listener at this Impact Hub Lunch + Learn (Pioneer Square)
🍵 Thursday Nov. 1: Taste teas and learn their history with a pro from Miro Teas at this Foundation event (Ballard)
🍴 Saturday Nov. 3: Learn how to whip up chicken mole with La Cocina School to support El Centro de la Raza with Foundation (Beacon Hill)
✍️ Wednesday Nov. 7: Hack your brain to boost your productivity at this Impact Hub Lunch + Learn (Pioneer Square) 🆕
💰 Wednesday, Nov. 7: Get tips on how to negotiate like a boss at this Foundation workshop (Queen Anne) 🆕
🍿 Check out movies by young filmmakers — through Sunday (Around town)
🎟 Get the chills at an evening of improvised ghost stories (Downtown)
🎨 Peer into the “dark, mystical recesses of the human psyche” at this artsy tour (First Hill)
👋 Nibble on snacks and meet fellow entrepreneurs (Pioneer Square)
💪 Boost your creativity at this Evergrey partner event (Downtown)
🎃 Dress up and dance it out at a Bollywood Halloween party (Columbia City)
🗣 Learn all about eco-friendly buildings around Seattle — through Saturday (University District)
🍷 Don your best zombie costume and sip Washington wines (Kirkland)
🎟 Support local journalism at The Seattle Globalist’s Globie Awards (Georgetown)
👋 Talk with your neighbors about how we can solve homelessness at this Evergrey partner event — through Saturday (Pioneer Square)
🎈 Take your costumed little ones out for games and early trick-or-treating at Hilloween (Capitol Hill)
🎟 See “nightmarish aerial acts” at this circus — through Sunday (SoDo)
Ready your goggles and airships for murder mysteries at this Steampunk gathering — through Sunday (Downtown) — SOLD OUT. Thanks for the tip, Carla Vikingstad!
🎃 Level up your costume game for a $1,000 prize at this massive Halloween bash (Queen Anne)
👋 Watch your zombified neighbors dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (Pioneer Square)
Going to one of these? Take us with you! Email a pic to [email protected] or tag #theevergrey on Instagram. Learn what our emojis mean here, see more upcoming events on our events page, and add your own events with an Evergrey membership. Is an event sold out? Hit reply to let us know and we’ll update the listing in tomorrow’s newsletter.
Listen up, film fiends. We’ve got a pair of Festival passes to the Romanian Film Festival hitting the SIFF Cinema in Queen Anne next week. It’s a $140 value, it gets you into all the screenings November 2-4, and we’ll give ‘em away to a reader who introduces at least one new subscriber to The Evergrey today. 💪
This year’s festival takes the Halloween spirit into November with a visual tour of Romania and subjects ranging from demon hunters and haunted mansions to rediscovering the joys of life and using art as activism.
How do you enter to win? Just share this, your unique link to our sign-up form, with your buddies and get at least one of ‘em to try out the best local newsletter this side of the Cascades: https://theevergrey.com/invitation/*|UNIQID|*
We’ll draw the winners at random tomorrow (Friday) at 3 p.m., and announce ‘em in Monday’s newsletter.
See you tomorrow, all. — The Evergrey