Samantha England, Staff Writer
Last week, Initiative 1631 was on the ballot in Washington. 1631 would have imposed a carbon tax on Washington residents and and businesses with the aim of reducing carbon emissions. The initiative was rejected, in part because as noble as its intentions, the No campaign highlighted the fact that many of the state’s big polluters were not taxed for their carbon emissions and unlike the 2016 carbon tax initiative in Washington, there was no plan for how to spend the revenues from the initiative. Instead an unelected commission would spend the money freely. The initiative failed 56-44.
I-1631 was a response to the recent United Nations’ prediction that we may have as few as twelve years to change our ways and avoid much bigger consequences to damaging Earth’s atmosphere. I-1631 had the backing of and was co-authored by Washington’s Native American tribes. On Oct. 17, the Quinault Indian Nation, the Samish Indian Nation, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe gathered at the foot of the Western States Petroleum Association, the so called “big oil” lobbying group funding the propaganda against I-1631. The initiative seeks to impose a carbon tax in Washington on “large emitters of greenhouse gases,” according to the State Voters’ Guide. Opponents of 1631 note that eight out the top twelve polluters in Washington would be exempt from the tax, casting doubt on whether or not the initiative would realty curb carbon emissions in the state. The Seattle Times reported that electricity costs would rise by 2 percent, which could be particularly detrimental to low and middle income families who are struggling to get by.
Those supporting I-1631 hope that the initiative will be a stepping stone towards other states imposing similar fees and be a big step toward combating climate change. Students from SMU, Kelly Quiroz, Julian Rocha, Jayci Gomez, and Melissa Rosscup attended the event led by faculty members Irina Gendelman and Andrew Barenberg, showing their support for the initiative. At the rally, people were holding signs saying things such as “Water is Life,” “Stand with People, not Big Oil,” and “Clean Air and Water, Our Sacred Right to Life” to emphasize the importance the local tribes place on this initiative and the expression of their concerns for the threat of global climate. Many speakers came to speak out against big oil, leaders and presidents of the tribes who came to protest.
Opponents of I-1631 explain that the carbon emission tax proposed by the initiative will not affect energy companies, and will raise electric and heating costs for middle and working class homeowners and small businesses who already pay too much for energy. Gasoline and natural gas prices would have risen if I-1631 had passed. An op-ed in the Seattle Times said that this form of taxation was reminiscent of archaic and medieval methods of subjugation, “It’s medieval policy: Force commoners to pay indulgences to atone for their sins, empowering rulers and enriching their patrons. It works as long as people remain fearful and uninformed.” Their perspective is that voters are being duped to think that big oil companies alone will pay, when in fact consumers would end up paying for the carbon emission tax.