A diverse array of groups from all over Washington State gathered in Seattle this week to rally support for Initiative 1631. That’s the latest proposal to curb carbon emissions by imposing fees on big polluters.
I-1631 comes in the wake of two other carbon policies that failed. The first was I-732, the tax swap that was on the 2016 November ballot. More recently, a compromise bill backed by Governor Jay Inslee failed to pass the legislature. The latest effort comes after more than two years of coalition building, convened by an organization called the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.
Among the groups rallying in Seattle Thursday was a delegation from the Quinault Indian Nation. President Fawn Sharpe says multiple tribes were at the table, helping craft this carbon policy. And all of them were represented in talks to make sure it addresses their issues.
“We’re very concerned about rising sea,” Sharpe said. “We’re very concerned, the tribes in Eastern Washington that are facing wildfire. I was paying close attention to the spending and appropriations in Olympia. How much are we actually investing in clean, healthy forests?”
And she notes, the Quinault Indian Nation’s government buildings are located right on the edge of the ocean and have been forced to evacuate in recent years because of flooding.
This initiative collects fees from big polluters that are required to be spent addressing problems like those, and that are made worse by climate change -- or on programs to help communities that are disproportionately impacted.
Another good example of that, supporters say, is Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, where the rally took place.
‘Every three minutes an airplane flies over,” said Estela Ortega, Executive Director at the cultural resource center El Centro de la Rasa.
She says they’re in the midst of a study on how air and noise pollution affects people in this south Seattle neighborhood – and what needs to be done to address it.
“Beacon Hill is located between two freeways – the airplanes that fly over, the train that’s nearby – all of those particles end up impacting people’s lives. That’s why we have children who have a whole lot more asthma,” Ortega said.
And it’s important to her that with Initiative 1631, the study of what to do and about that could lead to more funding.
Unlike prior proposals, the money from fees mandated by the initiative could not be diverted for other unrelated spending, such as on public education.
The campaign is aiming to gather 260,000 voter signatures by July 6th to qualify for the November ballot.