Voters in 1st Franklin, 1st Hampshire districts asked to weigh in on carbon tax

  • BLAIS

  • SABADOSA

  • Voters in the 1st Franklin District and 1st Hampshire District have an opportunity to weigh in on whether there should be a fee on the carbon content of fossil fuels to compensate for the environmental damage caused by their use. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/11/2022 5:08:30 PM
Modified: 10/11/2022 5:08:20 PM

Voters in the 1st Franklin District and 1st Hampshire District have an opportunity to weigh in on whether there should be a fee on the carbon content of fossil fuels — otherwise known as a carbon tax — to compensate for the environmental damage caused by their use.

Question 5 on the Nov. 8 general election ballot in these two districts goes on to propose that most of the proceeds from the fee would be returned “in equitable ways to individuals as a cashback dividend.” However, this ballot question is nonbinding, so it will show representatives the opinions of voters without creating laws or amendments like the four primary ballot questions this year. It was created with the intent to provide constituents with the opportunity to direct representatives on how they would like them to act on a particular matter.

A fossil fuel is a substance formed in the Earth’s crust from the remains of dead plants and animals that is extracted and burned for energy. The main fossil fuels are coal, crude oil and natural gas. The amount of carbon dioxide released in burning any fossil fuel is proportional to the fuel’s carbon content.

The Ashfield chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a national nonprofit that focuses on policies to address climate change, advocates to vote “yes” on Question 5.

“Experts say that putting a fee on carbon content of fossil fuels is one of the fastest ways of reducing carbon dioxide pollution,” which is the chief cause of global warming, the nonprofit’s Ashfield chapter wrote in a statement.

Energy company owners, on the other hand, feel an added fee would place a greater burden on residents who are already struggling to heat their homes.

“People are heavily burdened with the price to heat their home,” said Michael Behn, president and chief operating officer of Sandri Companies. “It will place more of a burden on them.”

Harry Dodson, of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Ashfield chapter, disagrees with the idea that the burden would be placed on the consumer.

“A carbon fee becomes affordable for ordinary Americans when the money collected from fossil fuel companies is given as a dividend, or ‘carbon cashback’ payment, to every American to spend with no restrictions,” Dodson said. “This protects low- and middle-income Americans who otherwise might not be able to afford the transition.”

Behn doubled down on his argument by saying creating a fee and a dividend adds unneeded bureaucracy.

“Charging people for those products to give it back to them is a waste of time and money,” he argued.

Behn explained he is not against the use of clean energy, but noted that not enough renewable energy is available to compensate for the power needed.

“We should keep fossil fuels available until there are other options we can jump to that are affordable,” he said. “We are not there yet.”

Both Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, representing the 1st Hampshire District, and Rep. Natalie Blais, representing the 1st Franklin District, emphasize that the ballot question will inform them about their constituents’ viewpoints.

“Fighting climate change is one of the most important things we can do,” Sabadosa wrote in an email, “and ballot questions like this help us in our advocacy at the State House.”

Blais said she is waiting to hear from her constituents in the Nov. 8 general election before she forms an opinion about the proposed carbon tax. (The question will appear as Question 6 on Shelburne’s ballots, due to a local question regarding the Community Preservation Act.)

Depending on the outcome of Question 5, representatives may attempt to bring a bill to the Legislature that would create a carbon tax and cashback program in the state.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.


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