Towns eye fees to ‘tame the carbon beast’

  • A coal-fired power plant in New Hampshire. Half a dozen Franklin County towns will vote at their upcoming annual town meetings on nonbinding carbon pricing resolutions. These articles are aimed at alleviating global warming. AP Photo

Recorder Staff
Friday, April 28, 2017

Six Franklin County towns will vote on nonbinding resolutions for carbon fees to discourage global warming.

Buckland voters will consider a measure at their town meeting Wednesday. The Ashfield and Shutesbury town meetings will vote on the resolution May 6, Conway on May 8 and Charlemont on May 23.

The proposed Carbon Fee and Dividend would initiate a charge on all fossil fuels at the source, such as wells and mines, depending on carbon content. Money collected would be returned to households in equal payments to offset the increased cost of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

Carbon dioxide is one of the largest global warming gases being released into the atmosphere. The concept of charging a fee on carbon fuels is to make society pay the true costs of burning such fuels — which include effects on the environment — and thus encouraging more conservation and renewable energy production.

“Global warming is the biggest challenge facing humankind in the 21st century,” Richard Pree, leader of the Ashfield Citizens’ Climate Lobby, said in a written statement.

The Northampton City Council last week unanimously adopted a nonbinding resolution to charge fees on carbon in fossil fuels, while Amherst also has a nonbinding resolution on its warrant.

Seventy-nine Massachusetts House and Senate Democrats have signed on to two bills that would establish a fee structure for importers of fossil fuels, according to the Campaign for a Clean Energy Future. Revenues collected, likely from the transportation and heating sectors, would go toward rebates for residents and businesses.

The level of support for the proposals is up from the 48 who co-sponsored a bill by Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, during the last session.

“It’s coming on a little faster than I expected, but then global warming is heating up a little faster than we all expected,” Barrett told Statehouse News Service.

Sixty-two lawmakers signed on to Barrett’s new bill, Senate 1821, which is similar to the one he proposed last session, and Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg, rounded up 58 supporters for her proposal, House 1726, which would direct rebates to low- and moderate-income households to offset the higher costs of carbon-taxed fuels.

“Massachusetts is serious about tackling the climate crisis and we can’t meet our pollution reduction mandates without creating a price incentive to reduce carbon pollution and invest in our local clean energy economy,” campaign coordinator Cindy Luppi said in a statement.

Adding a price to carbon emissions, with an exemption for electricity production plants that are already covered under a multi-state cap-and-trade program, would lead to an increase in the gas tax.

But Barrett argued that the proposal does not constitute a tax increase because it would be revenue neutral. The $350 million to $400 million generated in the first year, according to Barrett, would not pay for general government operations, but would be redistributed in the form of rebates, with larger rebates available in areas where people drive more.

“You need to get that check in the people’s hands to persuade them that the government won’t hold on to the money,” Barrett said. His bill calls for a fee of $10 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, climbing to $40 over seven years and ultimately generating between $1.6 billion and $2 billion annually. “The intent is not to create sticker shock, but we start small so people can get used to the idea,” he said.

Barrett has spoken with Energy Secretary Matthew Beaton about the idea, and though he senses hesitation from the administration, he said he does not believe it is outright opposed to the idea.

In his speech to the Senate to kick off the session, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg called carbon pricing an “effective strategy” to “tame the carbon beast.”

“We must lead on this critical issue or fail ourselves and generations yet to come,” he said.

Barrett said it was the first time the topic has made it into a Senate president’s “inaugural address.”

“That’s progress. Now let’s go out and build on it,” Barrett said.

Reporting by Statehouse News Service was used in this article.

On the Web: www.citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-fee-and-dividend




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