What Will Make I-1631 Effective? Accountability and Oversight

Initiative 1631 holds a big promise: a fee on carbon emissions used to fund tangible, pollution-reducing projects that help diverse communities secure a safer, healthier future.

You know it’s going to be great. But have you wondered how (and maybe if) it will actually work? 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.

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.

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

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.

“That all sounds good,” you say. “But I want the details.”

Here’s How It Works

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

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”:

I-1631 will turn Washington into a clean-energy economy.

  • 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

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.

Initiative 1631 would make investments in forest health. Photo by Kara Karboski.

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. 

Learn More About Why You Should Vote Yes on 1631