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Carbon fee initiative likely to go before Washington voters in November

SEATTLE -- In Olympia, it was cheers and applause as a broad coalition of community, labor and environmental groups delivered more than 375,000 signature they say they gathered in 12 weeks to put I-1631 on the November ballot.

“People are tired of waiting, waiting for the federal government, waiting for the state government so I think it’s great we can take it right to the people,” said Becky Kelley, president of the Washington Environmental Council.

Campaign manager Abigail Doerr says Initiative 1631 will charge a fee to corporations for pollution.

“A normal person shouldn’t have to understand this. It’s our largest corporate emitters who are being charged this fee and they can afford to pay this fee,” said Doerr.

That fee would start at $15 per metric ton of carbon and would increase at $2 per year.

Mark Funk, with “No on I-1631”, says the initiative is being promoted as a fee on carbon emissions but he says it is a flawed measure.

“Initiative 1631 is being promoted as a 'fee' on carbon emissions, but in reality it is a flawed measure that would actually impose regressive and unfair energy taxes on Washington small businesses and consumers that don’t exist in any other state.

"I-1631 would increase fuel and electricity costs for Washington families by hundreds of dollars per year, especially hurting those who can least afford it," he said. "In addition, I-1631’s energy fees would continue to increase each year with no cap on how high they could go. I-1631 also exempts many of the state’s largest corporations, which would unfairly place the burden of this tax on Washington consumers, small businesses and farmers.

"That’s why a broad coalition of Washington citizens, small businesses and organizations is coming together to oppose this costly and unfair measure,” Funk said in a statement to Q13 News.

“It’s going to be a tough fight, the oil industry has a lot of power, has a lot of money,” said Kelley.

Carbon tax measures haven’t passed at the statehouse in recent years, but organizers say this initiative is different from other proposals because the money that’s generated would be spent on clean energy, protecting waterways, forests, air, among other things rather than lowering taxes for transportation, education or other state services.

The Secretary of State’s office will validate the signatures before the measure gets put on the Nov. 6 ballot.