We Can Shape a Better Future for Washington

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The Nature Conservancy is committed to passing Initiative 1631. Please join us!

Our state has a legacy of protecting the home we all share: prioritizing our health and a world-class economy. We enjoy that quality of life because we invest in our communities.

But we know if we don’t act now, the threat of pollution will only get worse and cause more harm to our communities and our families’ health.

I-1631 is a practical first step to ensure clean air and clean water for everyone in Washington and gives us the chance to pass on a healthier state to the next generation. It will create good jobs and invest in clean energy like wind and solar, healthy forests, and clean water with a fee on pollution paid by the state’s biggest polluters.

Kids play at Holy Rosary Church and school. Photo © Marissa Singleton

Giant coal trains near North Antelope Rochelle Mine, Wy.. Photo by Kimon Berlin (CC BY-SA 2.0).

As Washingtonians, we all do our part to keep our state clean. But right now the largest polluters can pollute for free, while the rest of us pay the costs. I-1631 would put a fee on the state’s largest polluters, like the oil industry and utilities that have not switched over to clean energy, and invest in protecting our air and water and new clean energy infrastructure across the state.

What Does I-1631 Invest In?

It would create a pool to be used to accelerate our state’s transition to clean energy, increase the resiliency of the state’s waters and forests to the impacts of climate change and reduce the impacts of climate change on communities.

Initiative 1631 brings benefits to all of Washington

  • Creates jobs and new opportunities in the communities who need it most

  • Protects low-income residents from energy cost increases

  • Improves long-term health outcomes for communities, especially families and children

Detail on Investments

70% to new clean energy infrastructure

  • Clean energy like solar, wind and other renewable energy

  • Cleaner transportation options like public transit, cleaner fuels, and rural broadband so more people have the option to drive less

  • Efficiency upgrades for homes and businesses to use less energy and save residents and customers money on their utility bills

Young boy getting a drink of clean water from the drinking fountain. Photo credit: © Michael D-L Jordan

25% to clean water and healthy forests

  • Ensure our forests are healthy, more resilient to disease, and can protect our air quality

  • Prevent and clean up pollution from our rivers and lakes to keep communities healthy

  • Increase sustainable supply of drinking water, reduce risks from flood and drought, and ensure cooler, cleaner water for fish

5% to investments to local communities

  • Prepare for future challenges caused by pollution and a changing climate

  • Ensure that the impacts do not disproportionately harm our most vulnerable communities

The town of Tenino, Wash., could use a boost. When the state’s last coal plant closes within the next seven years, 200 local jobs will disappear. Already, nearly a third of the town’s 700 households report income under $25,000.

I-1631 will generate investments in clean energy like solar and wind power. Photo © Flickr CC license Lilly, Viktor, Ludvig, Kim & Gitte Andersen_flckrCC

Now, thanks to growth in clean energy, Tenino’s future is brightening. A 180-megawatt solar farm is planned on the site of the former coal mine, bringing 300 new jobs during construction. Solar panels, grant-funded, gleam on the roof of Tenino High School. And a K-12 program to educate and train students for work in alternative energy is in the works.

On November 6, Washington voters have an opportunity, without precedent in the United States, to greatly reduce carbon emissions, make our state more resilient to climate change, and help communities like Tenino forge a future that’s environmentally healthy and economically fit.

Imagine some of the other great benefits of I-1631:

A levee setback in the Skagit Valley. Photo by Julie Morse / The Nature Conservancy.

  • In the Cascades and eastern Washington, Initiative 1631 might fund projects that make forests more resilient to climate change. For example, balanced management can help forests retain more soil moisture, while prescribed burning reduces the chances of catastrophic fire.

  • 1631 will support projects like levee set-backs that give rivers like the Quinault more room to roam. That protects people vulnerable to river flooding, and improves salmon habitat, too.

  • Some 1631 proceeds are specifically earmarked to help towns dependent on fossil fuel industry transition to a cleaner, more robust future. In Tenino, for example, city councilman Dave Watterson knows that a vote for 1631 is a direct vote for his town’s future. “I see opportunity for education of our citizens, in particular our youth, and to prepare them for opportunities in the renewable energy field,” he says.

  • The carbon fee could be used to invest in cleaner transportation options, like phasing city bus fleets from carbon-intense diesel to clean electric, and helping rural communities replace aging, high emission school buses.

  • 1631 could also be used to subsidize construction of modular, energy efficient homes that would provide affordable housing and lower energy costs. Through these and other projects, 1631 will help communities most impacted by pollution, which tend be areas of lower income and communities of color.

  • The initiative will support development of other renewable energy sources, including wind and possibly tidal energy, both vast potential resources in Washington. For example, the proposed Lower Snake River Wind Farm in southeast Washington would generate enough energy to power nearly 250,000 homes.  

There is no question: Initiative 1631 will give Washington a cleaner, healthier, and more resilient future. It will also set a tone for the nation. We’ll be the first state to impose a direct per-ton-of emission fee on the biggest polluters, and parlay that into actions which specifically counter the effects of climate change. 

For Washington and beyond, the benefits of Initiative 1631 are as limitless as a clear blue sky.

Accountability and Oversight

Who decides how to distribute revenue from I-1631 fairly and effectively? And how can we be sure funded projects are working?

The answer has been clearly planned. Oversight and accountability are built into the text of I-1631.

All investments are overseen by a public board made up of trusted community leaders and experts in science, business and health so that big energy companies and special interests aren’t making decisions about our future.

Staff of Vigor Shipyards at a recent Yes on 1631 event at the shipyards. Photo © Hannah Letinich

Local businesses and community-based organizations will partner to kickstart projects that are proven to reduce pollution, benefit diverse communities and create good-paying jobs across the state. The investments are regularly evaluated to assess whether Washington is meeting state goals to reduce pollution, giving support to those communities who need it most and transitioning to a clean-energy economy.

This oversight board is not a new practice for Washington — that’s how our government works. Legislators rely on experts and community members to implement many state goals. A good example is the Workforce Training Board, It’s made up of representatives from business, labor and educational institutions and oversees about $1.5 billion in state spending a year.

Here’s How It Works

The Initiative creates a 15-person public oversight board. That board includes representatives from Washington state agencies, representatives from tribes and communities most impacted by pollution and people who represent business and labor. The chair of the board will be a full-time position appointed by the governor and housed in the Governor’s Office.

The job of this 15-person board will be to make recommendations about how best to fairly and effectively invest the revenue from carbon-emissions fees into projects that meet the goals of the initiative.

They’ll serve on advisory panels for each of the three funding “buckets”:

  • Clean Air and Clean Energy Panel: Makes recommendations on the 70 percent of the proceeds from the carbon fee earmarked for clean energy and reducing emissions

  • Clean Water and Healthy Forests Panel: Focused on the 25 percent that goes to clean water and healthy forests — projects that make our world more resilient to climate change

  • Environment and Economic Justice Panel: Identifies projects within the 5 percent of funds that will be used to help communities at risk from the impacts of pollution and climate change — making them safer and healthier.

State tribal representatives will serve an important role in decision making and public oversight of Initiative 1631. Photo © Bridget Besaw.

To determine what proposals and projects are best, each panel will consult with appropriate experts within tribes and agencies, such as the departments of Ecology, Commerce, and Public Lands.

A series of deadlines and target dates ensures that the process will keep moving forward and result in tangible, beneficial projects.

Finally, one more essential step is built into I-1631: effectiveness review. Do the projects funded really reduce emissions or otherwise meet the goals of the measure? That question will be investigated by the Department of Commerce with the help of academic institutions and other experts.

Ultimately, oversight and accountability will ensure that I-1631 is truly effective in reducing pollution and creating climate resiliency, fairly and efficiently. It will also help prove to a watching nation that while no measure is perfect, a well-crafted, inclusive and carefully administered action to slow pollution is a critical step in the right direction — and one that can succeed in every state. 

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Students, TNC staff and Tilth staff plant native species in a section of the Rainier Beach Urban Farm. Photo by Hannah Letinich.

Climate change caused by carbon pollution threatens our lands, waters and communities, which we have been working to protect for nearly 60 years. We see its impact in flooding in rivers and coastal areas, bigger and more frequent forest fires, changing ocean conditions, and changing water supply.

As Washingtonians, we pride ourselves in our ability to work together to tackle big problems through innovation. Together we have the chance to take bold action that moves us towards a clean and prosperous future and models an approach for the rest of the world.

Initiative 1631 will drive investments to prepare Washington for future where people and nature thrive, while also tackling carbon pollution that damages our health right now and contributes to climate change. It will invest in job-creating projects in clean energy, securing our water supply, forests, farms and marine resources, and preparing communities for climate change.

After years of work, our Yes on 1631 coalition is led and supported by more than 400 organizations and leaders — including labor unions, communities of color organizations, environmental and clean energy advocates, health professionals, businesses, faith organizations, and tribal nations who have come together to pass this practical solution. 

The other side is being funded by Big Oil — which has poured into our state more than $26 million to defeat the measure. The No on 1631 campaign is nearly 100 percent funded by big energy interests that want to maintain their profits while continuing to pollute the environment.

Why do the oil companies care so much? A fee on carbon emissions will cost them money. For oil companies that put profit over environment, that is a big problem. I-1631 also sets a precedent. As the very first state to pass such a measure, Washington will have demonstrated that people believe in clean energy and support the idea that those who pollute the most need to chip in proportionately to counter their damaging carbon emissions. If Washington passes the carbon fee, other states will follow.

Explore Other Reasons to Vote Yes on I-1631

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