Business, taxpayers save money with Initiative 1631. Vote yes.

This commentary originally appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal 

By Jeff Stonehill

Over decades running Alaska fishing and Seattle construction businesses, my crew and I burned a lot of fuel. Ironically, our livelihood came from fish stocks and forests that now are choking on the fumes from burning fuel. The costs of carbon emissions were hidden in the past, but they’re coming home to roost.

Pollution has become a fast-expanding hole in our wallets. As taxpayers, we pay billions to fight wildfires, floods, droughts, and a roster of other troubles that are either caused or amplified by carbon emissions from all that fuel we burn.

We can mend this hole by passing Initiative 1631 on November 6. This initiative applies a proven recipe for cutting pollution, reducing fuel consumption, and goosing economic growth. It’s called “price-and-invest” emissions policy: Put a modest price on carbon pollution, then invest the money to help people boost fuel efficiency, clean energy, and resilience against the consequences of pollution.

Don’t want your tax dollars wasted? Me neither. Wildfires are burning our money today—aggravated by climate-amplified heat and drought, along with poor fuel-management practices. Over the last five years, fighting the new wave of “megafires” cost Washington $1 billion, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Climate-intensified floods, hurricanes and rising seas aren’t free either. Our US tax dollars are bailing out a federal flood insurance system that was swimming in $30 billion of red ink by 2017.

That doesn’t even count the cost of degrading the natural resources that gave my family a good living. Cutting pollution will help control the growing damage to our fisheries, our forests, and our snow-fed water supplies. Seafood alone supports nearly 61,000 jobs in Washington. Wood products support 101,000 jobs. Nearly 200,000 depend on outdoor recreation.

Climate impacts and ocean acidification are undermining these jobs today. Puget Sound’s unraveling foodweb is forcing drastic measures to protect dwindling Chinook salmon and endangered resident orca whales that feed on them. Chinook salmon are dying within weeks after entering saltwater. Massive blooms of toxic algae are thriving in warm, carbon-acidified seawater, displacing healthy prey species that sustain our fish stocks. These toxic algae are undermining coastal tourism and fishing businesses by forcing health authorities to shut down razor clam and Dungeness crab harvests.

Tired of paying the tab for unnecessary pollution? Me too. Thankfully, we can prosper by cutting the emissions behind these problems. Other states are already doing it successfully.

Despite the fear-mongering claims in oil-funded TV ads, other states have demonstrated that cutting carbon pollution with policies like Initiative 1631 saves money and strengthens the economy.

On the East Coast, businesses and consumers saved $1 billion through efficiency and clean power funded by revenue from a carbon price over the last three years. Nine states from Maine to Maryland share a regional price-and-invest policy to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Instead of buying ever more imported fossil fuels, they kept $1 billion in their wallets.

Those same states reduced regulated emissions by more than 50% over the last nine years. Their efficiency and clean energy projects generated tens of thousands of new jobs, and added billions of dollars to their economy. They did it by investing carbon revenues to build a cleaner economy.

A key ingredient here is common sense. If we raise revenues to solve a problem, that’s what we should use those revenues for.  That’s what Initiative 1631 does.

Accountability matters. This measure proposes a carbon fee, not a tax.  That legal distinction keeps stray hands out of the till: Fee revenue can only be used for the purposes it is raised for. No unrelated pet projects allowed.

Under 1631, investments of carbon revenue will be dedicated to reduce GHG emissions (70%), to build climate resilience in waters and lands at the front lines of climate impacts (25%), and to help communities cope with impacts of climate change like wildfire, flooding, and the need to educate kids so they can deal with the problem (5%). About one twentieth of the money for pollution reduction is reserved to help fossil fuel employees transition to other work as demand for fossil fuels drops.

This initiative is not a retread of the “carbon tax” measure that voters rejected in 2016.  That year, some climate advocates promoted a wasteful and ineffective measure to tax carbon emissions and then give away the money in business tax breaks and “rebates” for low-income people. That might feel good, but it doesn’t do much to reduce pollution, and it doesn’t deliver the savings or the jobs we can get from this year’s stronger, smarter policy.

Come November 6, we have a chance to put our money to work where it delivers. Vote for Initiative 1631.

BIO: Jeff Stonehill ran a commercial salmon fishing business in Alaska for 20 years, and a construction business in Seattle for 15. He participates in the Working Group on Seafood and Energy, which supplied information for this article.

Note: Global Ocean Health and the Working Group on Seafood and Energy provided assistance with this piece

Brad Warren speaks about climate change, seafood, and initiative 1631

National Fisheries Conservation Center and its Global Ocean Health program’s Executive Director Brad Warren speaks on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross about ensuring initiative 1631 provides a fair solution for working lands and working waters, as well as rural communities. He tackles some of the most common opposing viewpoints and shares why price-and-invest policies like 1631 are the ones that work best. Interview starts at 12:47. Or, to listen directly from the start of his interview, click here.

Fight Ocean Acidification: Yes on WA Initiative 1631

This commentary appears in the October 2018 issue of Pacific Fishing magazine

By Matt Marinkovich

In the mid-1980s, when I started seining with my dad for Fraser River sockeye, the Puget Sound fishery was already declining. But lately the consequences of a fraying marine food web are spreading far beyond the fishing fleet.  Living in Friday Harbor, I have a front row seat.

That’s why I will vote for Washington’s Initiative 1631 in November. This ballot measure will deeply reduce the biggest source of pollution that degrades our waters: carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning coal, oil and gas.

I’ve experienced some of the harm first hand. Local salmon stocks kept dwindling, so like many fishermen I migrated north. Now I fish in Bristol Bay, while back home whale watch boats and yachts have replaced fish boats in the harbor.  Now they are worried too.

The endangered southern resident Orca whales aren’t getting enough fish to sustain themselves. These whales haven’t successfully raised a calf in over three years.

Is anyone surprised? Our resident orcas eat almost exclusively Chinook salmon. Just since I was a teenager, catch and escapement of these fish have dropped by more than half.  Chinook in Puget Sound are down to about 10% of historic levels.

Scientists say the young Chinook themselves may be starving, especially when they first enter the Sound. November’s ballot measure offers a chance to tackle what might be the biggest problem —while we still can.

Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels mixes into the water and acidifies Puget Sound. Scientists at the UW Labs in Friday Harbor have measured CO2-driven acidification at extremes that most marine waters aren’t expected to see for generations. It is dissolving the shells of tiny floating snails called pteropods, a major prey for young salmon. High CO2 and warm waters are fueling toxic algae that displace nutritious plankton eaten by salmon.  Toxic algae are also forcing harvest closures in Dungeness crab and shellfish beds. Scientists say the impacts will keep getting worse until we confront the root cause.

Not every attempt to  “cure” this problem deserves support from fishermen. Initiative 1631 does. It is a powerful and affordable tool to slash the underlying CO2 emissions.

Fishermen and tribal leaders intervened to improve this ballot measure, so resource-dependent coastal people get a fair shake. The Working Group on Seafood and Energy, the only fisheries trade association focusing on carbon emissions, endorsed the initiative and provided a lot of information for this article.

The measure will achieve deep emission cuts at low costs. It will also help fishermen and others afford to do their part, instead of just sticking them with a bigger fuel bill. This initiative will impose a modest “carbon price” on most fuels. Then it uses the money to fix the problem—investing it to help ordinary people boost fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and adapt.

This is a much stronger, fairer approach than the “carbon tax” (and mis-targeted revenue giveaway) that Washington voters rejected in 2016. I-1631’s “price and invest” approach provides funding that communities and businesses can use to build solutions that also benefit local industries. The money can build cold storages in coastal communities to eliminate trucking fish hundreds of miles to facilities in urban centers; retrofit vessels and vehicles to make them more fuel-efficient; and protect carbon-storing forested watersheds to ensure stable water supplies and draw down carbon.

Fishermen and tribes insisted on strong measures to ensure carbon revenues won’t be diverted and squandered. Now the initiative includes multiple layers of accountability, starting with the mechanism for collecting revenue: it’s a fee, not a tax. Legally, that means the money can only be spent to reduce emissions or to help people adapt to the impacts.

Marine fuels are exempt from the extra carbon price, so fishermen won’t pay a dime more at the fuel dock. Other fuels will be charged $15 per ton of carbon (around 14 cents a gallon of gas or diesel). That price rises at $2 (per ton) a year, with the proceeds invested in solutions. The price stops rising in 2035 if the state is hitting its emission targets, which it should, since most of the money will go directly into emission reductions.

This fee-based policy makes way more sense than the “carbon tax” voters rejected in 2016. This time, the initiative won’t give away money for tax breaks for big business and unfocused “rebates” to low-income people. Instead, I-1631 dedicates the revenue to actually fix the problem— isn’t that where the money should go?

Washington isn’t going it alone. Dozens of countries (including China) and state and local governments that represent about half the world economy have already enacted similar “price-and-invest” policies. That’s the kind of teamwork it takes to make a difference.

Killer whales and fishermen share a common interest in making sure the ocean can continue to support the fish we hunt.  We need a strong, fair policy that will cut emissions. We need a policy like Washington’s I-1631.

Matt Marinkovich grew up fishing sockeye salmon on Puget Sound, fishes Bristol Bay today, and runs Matt’s Fresh Fish, selling direct to consumers and restaurants. He is an active advocate for a healthy Salish Sea.

Note: Global Ocean Health’s Brad Warren, on behalf of the Working Group on Seafood and Energy, worked with Matt Marinkovich to provide policy research and analysis for Matt’s article

Acidification & Climate: Carbon price-and-invest measure on WA ballot

On November 6th, Washington state will vote on Initiative 1631, a measure to curtail carbon emissions that drive ocean acidification and climate change

The initiative would put a fee on most fossil fuels purchased in the state and invest the proceeds to help people increase fuel efficiency, build clean energy supplies, and adapt to impacts. The price would start at $15 per metric ton of carbon emitted, which equates to roughly 13 cents per gallon of gas, or 15 cents for diesel. The price would rise at $2 per ton annually until the state is on track to hit its emission-reduction targets.

Fuel for fishing vessels will not be charged this fee. The initiative exempts marine fuels from the new carbon price, along with agricultural and aviation fuels.

However, vessel owners, vehicle owners, and seafood companies would be among groups qualified to apply for funding from the pooled carbon revenues — for example to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions through equipment retrofits.

Washington tribes and fishing community representatives negotiated successfully for a number of changes in the ballot measure last winter. They secured the provision to invest in fuel-efficiency in vessels and vehicles, along with other changes that allow resource-dependent communities to benefit from investments of carbon revenues. The aim of these investments is to help recipients afford to “become the solution.”

If the measure is approved, Washington would join dozens of nations and states worldwide that have enacted similar policies to price carbon emissions and invest the proceeds to increase energy efficiency and accelerate the transition to a cleaner economy.

Initiative 1631 has been endorsed by the Working Group on Seafood and Energy, an association representing fishermen, shellfish growers and fishery-dependent community leaders on energy and carbon policy.

Working Group members Terry Williams of Tulalip Tribes, Larry Soriano of Alaska Ship Supply, and Scott Coughlin; with GOH Deputy Director Julia Sanders

The Working Group actively opposed a 2016 initiative in Washington to price carbon without investing in solutions, saying that approach would be costly and ineffective.

The group believes that revenues raised to tackle carbon emissions should be used for that purpose. They contend that merely relying on higher fuel prices to do the job is a recipe for failure and causes unnecessary economic harm to businesses and people —like fishermen, among others —who must burn fuel to earn a living.

The senior advisor to the Working Group is Brad Warren, Executive Director of the National Fisheries Conservation Center and its Global Ocean Health program. The program focuses on helping fishery-dependent people confront the root causes and the marine consequences of carbon pollution and other waste streams. It was formed by GOH at the behest of seafood industry leaders who wanted a better understanding of climate change consequences and solutions, and a forum to voice their concerns.

Email Brad directly at brad@globaloceanhealth.org. Visit and like the Working Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seafoodandenergy/.

Board meeting turns ‘toxic’ as UN climate fund runs low

Rich and poor country representatives clash over policy priorities and replenishment at Green Climate Fund board meeting

By Megan Darby, Climate Home News, 7/3/18

Paul Oquist and Lennart Båge, co-chairs of the Green Climate Fund board, were accused of poor preparation for this week’s meeting (Photo: GCF)

A meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board in Songdo started unevenly on Sunday, as co-chair Paul Oquist was detained by political turmoil in Nicaragua, leaving Sweden’s Lennart Båge to run the session single-handed.

With developing countries complaining their priorities were not properly represented, it took nearly two days to agree on the agenda for the meeting.

“I have never served on a board that is this dysfunctional and toxic in my life,” said US representative Geoffrey Okamoto, as the discussion dragged on.

In the context of Donald Trump’s US cutting off contributions to the fund, however, Okamoto’s comment rankled with some.

“It is typical playing to the crowd,” said Zaheer Fakir, who represents South Africa. “The reason why it is dysfunctional and toxic is the way [the co-chairs] prepared for this board meeting.”

He said there had been a “serious lack of consultation” and the chairs had not responded to comments regarding the agenda before the meeting.

The barely veiled hostilities come as the fund faces a cash crunch. It has $2.8 billion left to allocate from its start-up donations. Projects up for consideration on Wednesday would claim $1bn of that.

As well as the US withholding $2bn of its pledge, the pot has lost some $1bn in value due to exchange rate fluctuations since 2014, officials reported.

Discussions on how to top up the budget were rolled over to the final day of the meeting, after lively but inconclusive talks on Tuesday. There were divisions over how much to hinge donations on closing policy gaps, many of which have defied resolution since the fund started.

Trump’s refusal to contribute has driven a wedge between other wealthy countries and the developing world, which still expects governments to fulfil a collective promise to deliver $100bn climate aid a year by 2020, partly through the GCF.

Read more here

Washington’s gas-price surge not enough to deter summer travelers

Comment from Global Ocean Health: “The Seattle Times reports that drivers aren’t hanging up their car keys to avoid high fuel prices this summer. No surprise. This report further confirms one of our main findings from research on policies that seek to reduce carbon pollution: Price signalling alone is not the best tool in the kit. Effective carbon policies go beyond merely putting a price on the carbon released by burning fuels. They use the money from a carbon price to help people afford to “become the solution.” That means investing to boost fuel efficiency, produce more clean energy, and reduce both the pollution and the costs that come from burning more fuel than we need.”

Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times, July 6th, 2018

Over the past year, a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Washington gas prices have soared over the past year to among the highest in the country, but that’s not expected to change anyone’s summer driving plans, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

The state’s average gas price per gallon is the third-highest in the nation and is 20 percent higher than the national average, according to AAA data. Over the past year, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The state’s average gas price per gallon is the third-highest in the nation and is 20 percent higher than the national average, according to AAA data. Over the past year, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman for AAA of Washington, said her organization projects about 47 million Americans traveled during the Fourth of July holiday stretch, a 5 percent increase over last year.

Surveys from AAA clubs around the country indicate that Seattle will be among the top three domestic destinations, behind Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif., Cook said. That’s partly because the city is a starting point for cruises to Alaska.

Still, this year’s rising costs at the pump are nowhere near the record set on July 6, 2008, when regular unleaded reached $4.35 a gallon.

While higher prices in Hawaii and Alaska are attributed mostly to the cost of transporting fuel, in Washington, Oregon and California, prices are boosted by stricter standards for fuel cleanliness, Cook said.

Washington drivers pay 67.8 cents per gallon in taxes, 49.4 cents a gallon to the state and 18.4 cents to the federal government. That’s the second highest gas tax in the nation after Pennsylvania, where drivers pay nearly 77 cents per gallon.

Eastern Washington has less expensive gas than the western part of the state because the region uses cheaper, dirtier crude oil from Montana rather than the cleaner kind imported from Alaska and Canada, she said.

Of those travelers — about one million of whom originated in Washington — 85 percent traveled by car, she said. And the travel boom is forecast to last all summer, likely setting new records, she said.

Read more here

Battery-backed solar power to undercut coal in China by 2028: report

Comment on story from GOH Executive Director Brad Warren: “The future of healthy oceans and fisheries depends on rapidly reducing carbon emissions. That’s one reason why it matters that falling costs for solar + battery storage are starting to knock out coal in some markets, and may do so in China soon.”

By Soila Apparicio, Climate Home News, 3/7/2018

Falling battery costs will allow for renewable power to grow rapidly, analysts predict, replacing traditional baseload generation

Solar and wind energy is predicted to supply almost 50% of the world’s electricity by 2050 (Photo: Kenueone)

Wind turbines or solar panels with batteries will be able to provide on-demand power cheaper than old coal plants in China by 2028, analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predict.

In the US, the combo can outcompete gas generation by 2027, according to the same New Energy Outlook report, presented in London on Friday.

BNEF expects battery prices, which are already down by 79% per megawatt-hour since 2010, to continue falling fast. That will enable grids to integrate more variable renewables and ultimately end reliance on coal, gas, and nuclear to meet peak demand.

By 2050, the report predicts 71% of electricity worldwide will be generated by carbon-neutral sources, with 50% coming from renewables.

“The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” lead author Seb Henbest said at the launch.

Rechargeable, high-energy density lithium-ion batteries are the main focus of this analysis. There are several different types of lithium battery on the market with varying lifetimes. They are used to store excess energy from solar panels and wind turbines and release it when needed.

David Howey, an engineering science professor at Oxford University, told Climate Home News lithium-ion technology is going to be “with us for at least ten years, possibly even beyond.”

Read more here

Northeast Carbon Market Keeps Delivering Major Benefits to All

New report details sustained economic and environmental gains enjoyed by states participating in regional carbon cap-and-trade market.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI, continues to succeed at reducing pollution, creating jobs, and boosting economies for all participating states. It’s no wonder that Virginia will soon add its name to the RGGI states, New Jersey is in the process of rejoining, and that states are exploring ways to reap the benefits of carbon markets to drive investments in transit and cleaner mobility options.

A new report released last month by the Analysis Group found that, over the past three years, RGGI helped grow participating states’ economies by $1.4 billion, while adding 14,500 job-years (equivalent to full-time jobs for one year of employment). Nine states participate in RGGI, including the six New England states plus New York, Delaware, and Maryland. Key findings from the report are detailed in the infographic below.

Figure 1

RGGI is a cap and trade program; it requires energy producers that emit carbon dioxide to buy pollution allowances through an auction process. This means that they must internalize some of the costs of carbon pollution related to fossil fuels. It also incentivizes investment in cleaner fuel sources.

Altogether, since the program was implemented in 2009, the nine RGGI states have collected $2.8 billion in auction proceeds. States typically use RGGI auction revenues to pay for energy efficiency and clean energy programs – a “cap-and-invest” approach that further cuts emissions, reduces energy costs, and creates jobs. When states invest RGGI proceeds in energy efficiency, they get the biggest “bang for the buck” as they add more businesses and jobs in activities such as energy audits and installing energy-efficiency equipment. RGGI also helped reduce by $1.37 billion the amount of money sent out of the region to import fossil fuels.

Read more here

Mining power: EPA’s Pruitt aims to short-circuit Clean Water Act

By Jessica Hathaway  

Three days before the deadline for public comments on the proposed Pebble Mine project  in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt directed his staff to create a rule limiting the agency’s ability to regulate projects under Clean Water Act guidelines.

These are the exact guidelines that commercial fishermen and local tribes urged Obama-administration EPA officials to invoke to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska’s salmon gold mine.

In a memo dated Tuesday, June 26, Pruitt directed the EPA’s Office of Water to submit the following changes, at minimum, to the Office of Management and Budget within the next six months:

• Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process before a section 404 permit application has been filed with the Corps or a state, otherwise known as the “preemptive veto.”

• Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process after a permit has been issued by the Corps or a state, otherwise known as the “retroactive veto.”

• Requiring a regional administrator to obtain approval from EPA Headquarters before initiating the section 404(c) process.

• Requiring a regional administrator to review and consider the findings of a final Environmental Assessment or environmental impact statement by the Corps or a state before preparing and publishing notice of a proposed determination.

• Requiring the agency to publish and seek public comment on a final determination before such a determination takes effect.

“The guiding principle should be to provide landowners, developers and entrepreneurs with certainty that the EPA will not short-circuit the permitting process… before taking any steps to veto a permit application,” the memo reads.

Mining permits are typically submitted by massive global corporations that have the lawyers, lobbyists and money to push through the permit phase. Users of clean water are typically lowly individual American citizens with an ever-dwindling influence on their federal government.

No one who has followed the Pebble process for the last two decades could possibly say the fishermen pulled a power play over the massive Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals. A multinational company named “dynasty” can hardly invoke a pity party for lack of power.

Thousands of Bristol Bay’s fishermen have fought hard to protect their livelihood from being invaded by a foreign investor who is free to cut and run after it makes its 50-year cash-out investment in Pebble — leaving behind the toxic waste resulting from the metals mining process. Forever.

This singular victory for a sustainable fishery and a renewable resource hardly warrants EPA’s attempt to shut down one of the few powers we have as citizens to protect our access to a public resource.

Source: https://www.nationalfisherman.com/viewpoints/alaska/mining-power-epas-pruitt-aims-to-short-circuit-clean-water-act/

Climate Change May Be Creating A Seafood Trade War, Too

June 15th, 2018, Marshall Shepherd, Forbes.com

One of the grand challenges that I find as a climate scientist is conveying to the public the “here and now” of climate change. For many people, it is still some “thing” that seems far off in time or distance from their daily lives of bills, illness, kids, and their jobs. Ironically, climate change touches each of those aspects, but the average person does not often make the connections. People eat seafood and fish, but most people will not make any connections between tonight’s dinner of flounder, lobster or mackerel to climate change as they squeeze that lemon or draw that butter.

A new Rugters University study caught my eye because it is a good example of a “here and now” impact. Climate changes is causing fish species to adjust their habitats at a more rapid pace than current policy can manage. Many species of flounder, lobster, mackerel and crab are migrating to find colder waters as oceans warm.  The study suggests that such shifts may lead to international conflict and reductions in fish supply. Seafood is a pawn in the trade chess game.

NOAA

Fishers on deck

Researchers at Rutgers University say that an obsolete and outdated regulatory system has not kept pace with how the ocean’s waters are warming and shifting fish populations. I actually wrote a few years ago in Forbes about how warming waters were shifting crab populations in the North Pacific and affecting fishers as well as one of my favorite TV shows, The Deadliest Catch. This new study published in one of the top scientific journals in the world, Science, has provided new insight that has implications for our food supply and potential international conflict. According to a press release from the university:

for the first time that new fisheries are likely to appear in more than 70 countries all over the world as a result of climate change. History has shown that newly shared fisheries often spark conflict among nations. Conflict leads to overfishing, which reduces the food, profit and employment fisheries can provide, and can also fracture international relations in other areas beyond fisheries. A future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, like the targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would reduce the potential for conflict, the study says.

Malin Pinsky is an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers and one of the authors of the study. He, postdoctoral associate James Morley and a group of international co-authors reported that commercially important fish species (in other words things you like to eat and that many depend on for sustenance) could continue to migrate further northward in search of colder waters.

Read more here