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Oil companies have spent more than US$31 million to fight a ballot initiative in Washington State that proposes a U.S. first state-wide carbon tax—double the amount that environmental activists and billionaires have raised to back the initiative in the ballot for the November 6 elections.
The initiative, known as 1631, proposes a carbon emissions fee of US$15 per metric ton of carbon beginning on January 1, 2020. The fee would increase by US$2 a year until Washington State’s greenhouse gas reduction goals are met. The proposal also calls for using the revenue from the fee to fund various programs and projects related to the environment.
Washington State is one of several U.S. states that have said that they’re still on board with their commitment to act on climate despite the fact that U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
Washington is the leading producer of electricity from hydroelectric sources, and although not a crude oil producing state, Washington ranks fifth in the U.S. in crude oil refining capacity, according to EIA data.
The amount that Big Oil has raised to fight the measure is the biggest ever in Washington state to defeat a ballot initiative, according to data by the state Public Disclosure Commission reviewed by Reuters.
The previous record sum for defeating a ballot initiative in Washington State was raised back in 2013, when agriculture and food companies spent US$24 million to defeat an initiative that requires labeling of genetically modified foods.
While the Western States Petroleum Association—including BP America, —Phillips 66, and Andeavor—has raised more than US$31 million to fight the initiative, activists and billionaires including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg have raised US$15.2 million to support the initiative, according to state data reviewed by Reuters.
“It is a poorly designed policy,” BP spokesman Jason Ryan told Reuters, noting that while BP backs action to fight climate change, it strongly opposes the initiative in Washington because the company thinks it would disrupt the local economy.
“With Big Oil spending $30 million, that makes it a real fight,” Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters which backs the initiative told Reuters.
According to a statewide Crosscut/Elway Poll conducted in early October, 50 percent of the 400 registered voters polled said they would support the initiative, 36 percent said they were against the initiative, while 14 percent were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 5 points.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.