- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Climate activists say the D.C. Council not only should tax carbon pollution but do so at a higher rate than lawmakers are considering.

“D.C. could be the first jurisdiction in this country to implement a carbon pricing and rebate,” Kymone Freeman, host of We Act Radio, said Tuesday at a rally of about 50 people at the Wilson Building. “Let’s be a true sanctuary city. Let’s put a price on it and make history!”

Councilmember Mary Cheh, chair of the Transportation and Environment Committee, last month presented a proposal for taxing carbon. It calls for initiating a fee of $10 per ton of carbon dioxide produced from oil and gas use in the District. The fee would increase by $5 per ton each year until it caps out at $100 per ton by 2038.

Revenue from the tax could be returned to residents and businesses based on income and energy efficiency. The electricity sector would be exempt from the tax.

Richard Graves of the advocacy group CleanChoice Energy told Tuesday’s rally the Cheh plan is a “common-sense, market-based approach” to safeguard the District’s health, air and water, and he thanked the Ward 3 Democrat for her work.

But Mr. Graves and other members of the “Put a Price On It, D.C.” coalition countered her plan with one of their own. Their tax would start at $20 per ton of carbon dioxide and grow by $10 annually to $150 per ton by 2032. Their plan also stipulates that the majority of the revenue be funnelled into the rebate.

“We need to ensure that the rebate is strong enough to protect D.C. residents, especially the lower-income ones,” coalition spokeswoman Denise Robbins told The Times.

Ms. Cheh did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies for thousands of companies in the District, reportedly has expressed concern about the cost of the carbon tax and its effect on local business.

For those participating in Tuesday’s rally at City Hall, the cause is about more than just one proposal.

“We cannot assume that humans can simply adapt to any change that we face,” said Judith Howell, a security officer and member of the local Service Employees International Union. “It is working people in the United States and around the world who will be extremely vulnerable to all of those changes.”

“If we are not careful, the Anacostia River will become another [Hurricane] Katrina,” said the Rev. Dante King of the Forward Church in Ward 8.

Mr. King said that issues like poor living conditions and higher asthma rates in Wards 7 and 8 stem from pollution in the city.

“Now is not the time to talk about climate action. Now is the time to take climate action,” said Avery Davis, a program manager for Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based environmental advocacy group.

Taxing carbon has been a key topic for the District, especially in this election year. Calls for a carbon tax have grown since last summer, when Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat running for reelection, pledged to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.


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