Bills Proposing Fee on Carbon Pollution Would Spur Innovation and Address Climate Change
Photo: Climate XChange’s Research and Policy Director, Marc Breslow sits with Amanda Sebert from Clean Water Action at the environmental co-sponsership event at the State House in Boston.
By Jamie Garuti, Communications Manager
Among the flood of bills pouring in to meet the January 20th filing deadline at the State House were two climate change bills to keep your eye on this session. The bills, though varying slightly from each other, hit on the same concept: putting a fee on carbon pollution in Massachusetts. The idea is a surefire job creator and represents an opportunity for the Commonwealth to lead the way on addressing climate change.
Support for a fee on carbon pollution comes from both sides of the political spectrum. From George Shultz, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, to Bernie Sanders, leaders across the country and world agree that a carbon price is the next logical step to combatting climate change.
The mechanism behind the legislation is as effective as it is elegant. When fossil fuels enter the state, a fee is placed on them to account for the costs to society that pollution and climate change produce. Unlike traditional regulatory measures, which typically only address part of the problem (motor vehicles, buildings, or electricity generation), this market-based solution covers the entire economy.
How it works
The fee would start low and increase over time, incentivizing businesses and households to transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources. An established fee schedule allows for advanced planning: companies can intentionally incorporate sustainability into their business model, and individuals can examine their options and choose the lower-emission tactics that best fit their lives.
The differences in the bills lie in how the revenue from the pollution fee is used. Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) put forth one of the bills, Senate Docket 1021, calling for 100% of the revenue to be distributed back to households and employers, with lower income households receiving larger checks. A higher rebate, combined with the tendency of low-income households to use less fuel, ensures protection of this group.
Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) filed a carbon pricing bill in the House, HD 1504, An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Create Jobs. In her bill, while most of the collected funds will be returned to households and businesses, 20% will be invested into green technology, transportation, and energy efficiency for renters. This added investment in the clean energy economy would help boost the deployment of renewable energy.
Because Massachusetts imports all of our fossil fuels, we are currently sending around $20 billion out of the state to pay energy producers in other states and countries. Both carbon pricing bills would encourage us to buy local energy, effectively re-circulating money back into the local economy, putting money into the small business community, creating jobs, and spurring innovation. A green energy and transportation fund in particular has the potential to create jobs in these sectors. In the first year alone, it could create roughly 1,000 jobs, rising to several thousand new jobs over time.
Building broad-based support for carbon pricing: call your legislators
Although carbon pricing did not move forward last session, there has never been more support for a carbon pollution fee. Supporters packed a hearing room last October when carbon pricing was first up for discussion. Although it was only one of the bills on the docket, it dominated the hearing, with more than 30 testimonies from economists, policy experts, business leaders, clergy members, and civic groups.
Massachusetts is one of fifteen states currently looking into implementing a fee on carbon pollution. The passage of Sen. Barrett or Rep. Benson’s bill would be a major victory in the fight against climate change and a boost to our economy. In accordance with our legacy of leading the country, the Commonwealth must be at the forefront of the fight against climate change. And this legislative session, that means putting a price on carbon pollution.
The next step in moving these bills forward is making sure that as many legislators as possible co-sponsor the bill. The deadline for co-sponsorship in the House is February 3rd – please call your Senator and Representative today and ask them to co-sponsor SD 1021 and HD 1504.
Jamie Garuti is the Communications Manager at Climate Action Business Association. She graduated from Tulane University with a degree in Environmental Studies. Previously, she led a fossil fuel divestment campaign, worked with the leadership development program Climate Summer, and organized in local movements and campaigns for climate justice.