Carbon tax falls short in Olympia this year; proponents cite historic progress as bill clears two Senate committees.

Washington will not be the first state to impose a carbon tax, at least not one passed by the Legislature this session. The Seattle Times and Associated Press report,

Another ambitious effort to pass a carbon tax in Washington state has faltered as both Gov. Jay Inslee and the bill’s prime sponsor said Thursday that there weren’t enough votes to pass the measure out of the state Senate.

Washington would have been the first U.S. state to impose a straight tax on carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels like gasoline and electricity, and the legislation has been closely watched nationally.

But Inslee told The Associated Press on Thursday they were still “one or two votes shy” of passing it out of the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The tax faced long odds in a short legislative session. Proponents, however, do not sound discouraged.

“I would consider this a sea change in the climate fight. It’s come a long way from where we’ve been. We’ve basically shown that carbon policy is within reach,” said the Democratic governor. He noted the bill cleared key policy and fiscal committees — advancing further than previous measures — but didn’t have the votes to bring it to a floor vote…

The bill’s sponsor Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat, said in coming years, “we’re going to see a price on carbon in this state.”

While the Legislature came up short this year, carbon tax backers say they intend to put another measure on the November ballot.  Carbon Washington writes in a statement

SB 6203 made history as the first carbon tax in the country to be voted out of two legislative committees, and by coming within a single vote or two in the Senate. The support from environmental, tribal, and business interests was groundbreaking and builds on considerable progress in Washington to elevate a conversation about climate change and a price on carbon. While I-732, the nation’s first carbon tax initiative put to Washington voters in 2016 didn’t pass at the polls, it was the basis for four carbon pricing bills introduced in the 2017 legislature, and created an opportunity for the legislature to seriously consider SB 6203 in the 2018 session…

Carbon Washington will now focus its efforts on putting a price on carbon this year at the ballot or next year in the legislature.

The Times reports,

A coalition of environmental, tribal and other groups are drafting an initiative that would put a fee on carbon, and will try to gain enough signatures to put it on the November ballot.

“We plan to file very soon ” said Caleb Heeringa, a deputy press secretary with the Sierra Club, which is part of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy that is drafting the initiative.

Todd Myers, with the Washington Policy Center, writes,

Although the carbon tax is dead in the legislature, Washington voters will likely have their say this fall. Left-wing environmentalists have said they will put an initiative on the ballot. Groups like The Nature Conservancy, which is organizing the initiative drive, have already warned that the cost of their initiative will be much higher than the legislative proposal. Additionally, while the legislative proposal carved out many energy-intensive industries in Washington – which is both good and bad – the initiative will likely protect fewer industries, increasing the risk that they leave Washington state for locations that are more regulatorily friendly.

The Associated Press reports efforts are continuing in other states, as well.

“I don’t think that the failure to pass this year is going to stop other states,” said Charles Komanoff, who directs the New York-based Carbon Tax Center.

Carbon-pricing bills have been introduced in states, including Massachusetts, Oregon, New York and Rhode Island, but none have advanced as far as in Washington, experts noted.

It’s an issue to watch.