Langley’s city council members voted Monday to support the state carbon emissions fee initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot after listening to comments from about a dozen residents.
The resolution is symbolic and joins other Washington municipalities that have passed similar resolutions.
City council member Peter Morton, who proposed the idea, called it an example of “all politics is local” and pointed out that “climate change doesn’t respect borders.”
“It is not hyperbole to say all of humanity is at risk,” Morton said. “The City of Langley can take action and set an example for Island County, the state of Washington and the nation.”
The resolution passed 4-1, with Dominique Emerson voting against it. While acknowledging the need for immediate action, Emerson said there are no studies showing the carbon fee will work, and she questioned the effectiveness of appointing a board to oversee the fee revenue.
“It’s effectively a regressive/tax fee on the poor as the rich will not notice,” she said after the vote. “It will be cumulative in impact across multiple services and utilities.”
Initiative No. 1631 proposes reducing pollution by levying a fee on greenhouse gas emissions generated by corporations. Money raised would support air quality and energy projects.
Proponents say the initiative would create thousands of new jobs and help the state reach its goal of reducing emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035. Opponents say it’s not an effective plan and that it will lead to higher fuel costs.
Only one person of 13 spoke against the carbon fee initiative.
“It is not inexpensive and it’s not effective,” said Cliff Webster.
Consumers could be paying more on two fronts, Webster said, at the gas pump and for household utilities because companies will likely pass down the added fee costs to customers.
Webster also referenced Cliff Mass, University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences professor, who came out against the initiative Monday.
“I-1631 is a flawed, ineffective and highly partisan initiative that does little to deal with increasing greenhouse gases,” Mass wrote on his weather and climate blog.
Speaking passionately for the initiative at the council meeting were many residents from Langley, Clinton, Oak Harbor, Coupeville and other Whidbey locations.
Some referenced scientific studies and spoke about the worldwide implications of global warming, while others described watching their own trees and garden produce die from lack of rain.
One man described making the decision to a fossil fuel alternative “the best feeling I’ve had in a long time.”
“I just put in 28 solar panels on my house,” said Dean Enell. “It created jobs for four guys on my roof for two days. It’s time we wean ourselves from the carbon economy.”
Gary Piazzon from Coupeville and the Whidbey Island’s Greening Congregations Collaborative called climate and ocean change “the number one moral and health care issue of our time.”
Bob Hallahan of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby called the initiative “a good first step” and a “reasonable, fairly low-cost option.”