Posted by Alex Kuffner in the Providence Journal on February 2, 2017
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- State legislators stood with environmentalist advocates on Thursday to mark the introduction for the second year running of a proposal to tax carbon in Rhode Island as part of a push to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The crux of the bill introduced by Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Sen. Jeanine Calkin remains unchanged from a year ago. It would still put in place a fee of $15 a ton on carbon pollution that would be levied on petroleum products at their first point of sale in Rhode Island, on electric suppliers based on how much energy they get from fossil fuels and on distributors of natural gas for household and business use.
But in recognition of the fact that Rhode Island cannot be an outlier when it comes to taxing carbon, the bill has been amended this year with a trigger clause. Neighboring states must adopt similar measures for the Rhode Island tax to go into effect.
"Our strategy moving forward is based on a regional approach," said Regunberg, D-Providence.
Efforts are underway already to introduce carbon taxes in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, according to Jeff Mauk, executive director of the Washington-based National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. With the Trump administration showing little interest in addressing climate change, it is up to states to step in, he told the crowd gathered at the State House in support of the bill.
"Now is the time for our state to take the lead on fighting climate change," said Calkin, D-Warwick. "We must be bold."
Seventy percent of the revenue raised through the tax would go towards direct rebates for residents and businesses. Twenty-five percent would fund renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and the remaining five percent would cover administrative expenses.
"It puts money in consumers' pockets to invest in solar, wind and energy efficiency," said Kat Burnham, energy program manager at Providence-based People's Power and Light.
Posted by Steve Ahlquist at RIFuture.org on February 2, 2017
Representative Aaron Regunberg and Senator Jeanine Calkin introduced carbon pricing legislation today backed by Energize RI, a coalition of advocates from the business, environmental and faith communities as well as legislators from neighboring states. According to Energize RI, the legislation “is designed to provide incentives for energy users to reduce their reliance on carbon-emitting fuels and encourage the development of cleaner renewable energy projects that keep Rhode Islanders’ dollars in the state and create jobs locally.”
The legislation would establish a new Clean Energy and Jobs Fund that will invest in renewables and efficiency and help Rhode Islanders lower their energy costs, financed by the fee – set at $15 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 – on carbon pollution, paid by the companies that sell fossil fuels in the state. The legislation is designed to go into effect only after neighboring states with a population of over 5 million pass a similar policy.
“The need for this legislation has never been more critical,” said Representative Aaron Regunberg. “2016 was the hottest year ever recorded in human history, and the devastating impacts of climate change are already being felt here in Rhode Island. Global warming is literally an existential threat for human civilization on this planet – and yet, we have never had a federal administration more hell bent on ignoring the problem. With Exxon running the state department and climate deniers at every level of Trump’s administration, we must accept that the ambitious climate action necessary to guarantee an inhabitable planet for our children is not going to come from Washington. It can only come from the states, and that’s why I’m proud to be working with legislators here in Rhode Island and across the Northeast to create a regional carbon pricing strategy that will reduce emissions and bring renewable energy and efficiency to scale in our communities.”
“Now is the time for our state to take the lead in fighting climate change,” said first-term Senator Jeanine Calkin. “This legislation will help us do just that. We no longer have the luxury of denying the facts. We must act now.”
Jeff Maulk, from the National Council of Environmental Lawmakers, brought messages from legislators from the neighboring states of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Massachusetts Senator Michael Barrett wrote, “We’ve been pushing hard for carbon pricing in Massachusetts and it’s incredible to see the whole region coming forward on this issue. If we are going to fight back against climate change we will need to do so together.”
Representative Jonathan Steinberg of Connecticut wrote, “I am very excited to be working to introduce carbon pricing legislation – modeled after Rhode island’s bill – in the Connecticut House of representatives. Your Connecticut colleagues applaud Rhode island’s commitment to protecting the health of all of us across New England by considering this carbon-pricing plan. Along with our neighbors in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, we hope to join Rhode Island in forging a regional carbon pricing strategy which will ultimately benefit our citizens for generations to come.
According to Energize RI, the program will not increase energy costs for the average Rhode Island family and businesses, and in fact, will reduce costs for all Rhode Islanders in the long term. the bill has been cosponsored by 25 representatives and 10 senators.
Posted by Tim Faulkner at ecoRI News on February 4, 2017
PROVIDENCE — A bill to tax fossil fuels is back again, and this time it’s designed to be more attractive to skeptical lawmakers.
The goal of a so-called "carbon tax" is to accelerate Rhode Island's transition from oil, gasoline and natural gas to local renewable energy. It’s a worthwhile idea, say proponents, because Rhode Island doesn't mine or drill its own carbon-based fuel.
Instead, Rhode Island spends $3.1 billion annually on carbon-intensive gasoline, oil and natural gas extracted from outside the state. A fee on fossil fuels would keep that money local by offering incentives to produce local energy, while cutting greenhouse gases and creating jobs.
“With Exxon running the State Department and climate deniers at every level of Trump’s administration, we must accept that the ambitious climate action necessary to guarantee a habitable planet for our children is not going to come from Washington,” said Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, sponsor of the Energize Rhode Island: Clean Energy Investment and Carbon Pricing Act of 2017.
This year, the bill is designed to only take effect when Massachusetts passes a similar carbon tax. To do so, the EnergizeRI Coalition is collaborating with other New England states to pass fee-on-carbon programs.
“This policy would make Rhode Island a city on a hill when it comes to ambitious climate action, helping to inspire other states to follow our lead,” Regunberg said during a Feb. 2 kickoff event at the Statehouse. “Anyone who was worried about this policy making Rhode Island an outlier should have no reason not to support immediate passage of this legislation because it’s not actually going to be implemented until our neighbors step up and follow suit.”
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg of Connecticut and Massachusetts Sen. Michael Barrett are legislating similar carbon-fee bills in their states.
The fee works like this: a tax of $15 is placed on each ton of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases emitted from the burning of a fossil fuel. Power plants, electricity and fuel distributors, and gas stations that sell the fuel are assessed the tax. The money would be collected in the Clean Energy and Jobs Fund and “recycled” back into the state. Twenty-five percent of the money would fund programs for renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate-change adaptation. Thirty percent would be returned as a dividend to companies based on their number of full-time employees. Forty percent would be paid as a dividend to each Rhode Island resident. Employees and residents earn their funds via tax credits or receive a check if they don't file a tax return.
Taxed fuels would include propane, gasoline, kerosene, heating oil, diesel fuel and jet fuel. The fee would be collected at the first point of sale or distribution. A natural-gas distribution company such as National Grid would pay the fee annually. A gas station would either have the fee paid by its distribution company or assess the fee at the point of sale.
A study conducted last year by Regional Economic Models Inc. of Amherst, Mass., estimated that the fee-dividend model would reduce energy expenses for the average Rhode Islander, while costing an estimated $25 a year for higher-wage earners.
If other states follow suit, the fee would begin Jan. 1, 2018. It's projected to collect some $40 million in its first year, and create 1,000 to 2,000 jobs in its first two years. After 2020, the fee increase $5 annually.
British Columbia enacted a carbon tax in 2008, which is considered a trial model. Reports indicate that the fee reduced emissions and had a mild benefit on the economy. Much of the rest of Canada is expected to adopt a carbon tax this year. Ireland enacted a fee on carbon in 2010. Australia enacted a carbon tax in 2012, and repealed it in 2014. Chile approved a carbon tax in 2014, but it doesn’t take effect until 2018. Washington state defeated a carbon-tax referendum last November.
“The need for this legislation has never been more critical,” Regunberg said.
He noted that Rhode Island is already suffering from climate change. Ambitious steps are needed to save the planet from the impacts of climate change, but help isn't going to come from the federal government, he said. “It’s going to have to come from the states.”
The bill was introduced in the House on Feb. 3 and will be reviewed by the House Finance Committee. A hearing date hasn't been set.
The Senate bill will be sponsored by Sen. Jeanine Calkin, D-Warwick.
“This is our generation’s moonshot and we need to take steps to do it right now,” Calkin said.