Advocacy group targets promising states to price carbon

Source: Emily Holden, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Seven states might have a solid shot at implementing a carbon tax, according to a group advocating for the policy.

Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and the District of Columbia are “promising,” while 17 other states have “potential,” but many of them face legal or political obstacles. The remaining are mostly red states where instituting a carbon tax would be challenging.

Of the most promising states, Massachusetts and Washington, as well as D.C., have ballot measure options and active campaigns. Washington voters rejected their first revenue-neutral carbon tax ballot measure last year, but Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has proposed another one that would fill state budget gaps.

Six states have potential and don’t face any obvious legal or ideological hurdles, according to the Carbon Tax Center. Among them — Delaware, Florida, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia — only Florida has a ballot measure option. Advocates in Rhode Island and Vermont are campaigning for legislation to price carbon emissions, according to the report.

Some of the northeastern states identified already participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which puts a price on electric-sector carbon emissions.

CTC’s 120-page report released last week provides profiles for each state, describing emissions levels, climate policies, activism and the political climate. For Hawaii, for example, CTC explains that fossil fuels are already expensive because of high per-capita travel, but “grounds for optimism include extremely low industrial sector emissions, very liberal citizens and legislature that are supportive on climate issues, the potential for climate change to disrupt Hawaii’s beaches, economy and natural environment, and excellent opportunities for renewable power.”

Indiana, on the other hand, would be “very challenging for legal, ideological and economic reasons,” including because industrial and electricity-sector emissions are very high, voters and lawmakers are conservative and skeptical of climate change, and state law requires that revenue from gasoline taxes fund highways.

CTC noted that in order to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement and limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius, man-made emissions must peak within the next 10 years and then fall sharply.

“The artificial marketplace advantage of unpriced pollution has helped lodge fossil fuels deeply into our economic system and social structures. Until we begin to charge fossil fuels for their climate damages, we won’t drive out fossil fuels and drive down carbon emissions at nearly the requisite pace,” CTC said.