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Big money pours into fight over Washington’s carbon fee

SEATTLE (AP) — A campaign bankrolled by the oil industry has raised $20.46 million to defeat a carbon pollution fee on the ballot in Washington state aiming at tackling climate change.

The money raised so far by the No on 1631 campaign, sponsored by the Western States Petroleum Association, puts it near the top in fundraising efforts by a statewide initiative campaign.

Initiative 1631 would charge large emitters of fossil fuels a carbon pollution fee, raising an estimated $2.3 billion in the first five years to fund a wide range of programs intended to carbon emissions.

If the ballot measure passes, it will be the first direct fee or tax charged on carbon emissions in the U.S.

Proponents say polluters who release carbon emissions responsible for global warming should pay to address its impacts. Washington is seeing rising sea levels, more intense and frequent wildfires and floods and shrinking glaciers.

Opponents say the burden will fall to consumers in higher energy costs. The fee would add an estimated 14 cents per gallon of gasoline in the first year. Initiative backers say each person would pay $10 a month more, an amount Gov. Jay Inslee recently said was worth paying for clean air.

Oil companies have given the bulk of money to oppose the measure. Phillips 66 is the top donor with $7.2 million in cash.

Supporters have raised $6.1 million. The Nature Conservancy is the top donor at $1 million in cash.