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.