Faces of the Campaign: Meet Peter Braun

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Peter Braun

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 80+ organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Peter Braun is a summer communications intern working on the campaign. Here’s his story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Peter Braun and I am a Communications Intern DC CCAN office. I’m the guy writing the clever tweets and Facebook posts for @PutAPriceOnItDC. I’m also a student at University of Richmond and an intern at the City of Richmond, Office of Sustainability.

Peter Braun headshot

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I have always loved the natural sciences. At some point in middle school, I looked around and realized that no one else seemed to care about what was happening to the Earth as much as I did. It wasn’t until the summer before my first year in college that I realized no one was going to take responsibility for the environment, so I had to step up.

Why does supporting equitable clean energy policy in DC matter to you?

Energy giants need to start taking responsibility for what they are doing to our world. So many average people like my family want to do their part to fight climate change, but they just do not have the resources to do it. This policy will start in DC, but I hope it inspires other cities to enact radical clean energy policies. I am fighting for DC because I want DC to set an example for my home town and spread this movement.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

I have never seen so much action, engagement, and thoughtfulness on an environmental campaign before. There is an outpouring of support to the people we talk to when we go out to petition. There is so much enthusiasm and hope. The leaders of this campaign have worked with community organizations and made sure all DC residents are represented.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

Growing up just outside DC, and now living just outside of Richmond, you see just how vulnerable the homeless and poor are to the environment. Seeing reports of heat waves causing health problems in my own community is shocking. Knowing that my family could be so vulnerable makes me want to find a way to protect our common home, both the environment and my community.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

It’s simple, but every Monday our team of about 10 interns and our supervisor Chelsea begin the week with a meeting. We start out with news about the campaign and fun, random facts. It’s about coordinating for the week as a team, but it really builds a great community.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

In my first full week on the campaign we had a big press conference and rally outside of the DC City Council building for the announcement of a draft bill. A big crowd of more than 100 supporters showed up, there was a series of inspiring speeches, and we hand delivered literature and information about our draft bill the each of the council members offices. It was a really powerful demonstration of how we can enact change if we work together and use all of our skills and assets. (I also saw Matt Ackland from FOX 5, <3 wow!)

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

The first time I went out petitioning, I happened to run into a local, high-profile faith leader. He was our first signature! It was just the best start to the campaign I could have gotten. I even got to help set up and attend a meeting to discuss our campaign!

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Inspiring!

Best place to get breakfast in DC?

I’ve been spent a lot of money at Takoma Beverage Company. I always get a latte and a honey-pistachio pastry.

We’re Winning the Climate Fight! — The Full Story of Cheh’s Climate Bill

We’re Winning the Climate Fight! — The Full Story of Cheh’s Climate Bill

We have news — and it’s quite the mixed bag.

I’ll start with the good news. WE HAVE A BILL! On Tuesday, DC Councilmember Mary Cheh finally introduced a climate bill. The “Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018” features policies that, if passed, will significantly cut emissions and place DC among the frontrunners of states and cities fighting climate change. The bill reflects our campaign’s hard-won principles of strong, economy-wide emission reductions with a focus on equity, and that is a true victory that would not be happening without your tireless advocacy.

Before I get to the bad news, I have a quick favor to ask: Will you send a message to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie of Ward 5 asking him to do everything in his power to advance and pass this strong climate bill? It will need to move through his committee this fall. Take one minute to send a message right now.

Now on to the bad news. What’s hard to believe, and impossible to celebrate, is that Cheh left the carbon fee out of this bill. This happened despite her public commitment of support for the carbon-pricing policy and her repeated expressions of confidence that a majority of the Council would support a carbon fee. And after two years of passionate community support and careful analysis generated by our campaign, we were shocked when she turned her back at the last minute.Camila Thorndike speaking w Cheh at bill intro

When Councilmember Cheh announced her re-worked version of the climate bill at the Wilson Building on July 10th, I sat feet away from the dais busy with Councilmembers and staff, in an out-of-body experience of conflicting emotions. This was the day you and I worked for years to realize.

But part of my heart was broken and betrayed. Local leadership on the most powerful solution for a just and livable future, a carbon fee and rebate, had evaporated just weeks after Cheh’s office had proposed moving forward with the strong carbon price we endorsed.

Part of me was irate. This about-face happened because of the power of the fossil fuel industry. Near the very end of months of working group meetings with business lobbyists, Washington Gas proposed to swap the carbon fee for a modest increase on the preexisting Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF), raising funds for commercial energy efficiency programs. Big business and utilities want all carrots, no stick. A well-designed and steadily increasing carbon price holds polluters accountable for the damages of climate change. Unfortunately, the Councilmember let them off the hook.

Yet another part of me was incredibly impressed — by our movement. Although Cheh’s omnibus bill falls short of our expectations, it features a very strong set of landmark policies that will significantly enhance the District’s commitment to clean energy and energy conservation. The final effect of the bill is that all dirty energy is made slightly more expensive in the city, dirty electricity is phased out completely by 2032, and the revenue raised from the bill — an estimated $26 million in year one — would be invested in green infrastructure and other programs.

Not bad, not bad at all.

Similar to a carbon tax in Boulder, Colorado, the SETF fee proposed in Cheh’s bill would apply to electricity generated by fossil fuels. It goes beyond the Boulder approach by including a modest fee on natural gas and fuel oil too. The bill also increases DC’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 100% of the District’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2032, and requires suppliers to purchase a high percentage of their energy through long-term renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs). This would establish the strongest such goal in the country. (Yes, very cool). It would also establish strong building efficiency standards and would allocate 20% of the funds raised by the energy fee for rate-payer assistance for low-income households.

So, my friends, mixed bag. We lost a big battle for courageous climate policy, but if we stick together and fight as hard as ever, we are on the way to winning the war for a clean energy transformation in the District.

Will you take one minute to send a message to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie? His support is key for passing this bill.

Cheh’s suite of ambitious solutions were just great ideas in a report until you came along. Now they are on the way to becoming law. Congratulations on this real progress — seriously. Thank you for fighting so hard to get the District this far.

Activists Attend Bill Introduction

Your advocacy is THE countervailing force to big utilities and businesses who don’t want any climate policy with teeth to pass. We are still in for a big fight. Lobbyists for fossil fuel companies have strong access to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the committee through which the bill must pass after Cheh’s committee. So, once again, please, join me in urging McDuffie to advance this bill in its full strength this fall. The opposition is working overtime to bend the Council to their will. We must resist. Take action now!

It’s been a strange week, but thanks to this coalition’s tenacity and good cheer, I am dusting myself off and tightening the boxing gloves. Climate progress depends on grassroots power. The momentum we’ve built together has infused equity into local environmental politics and forced politicians to act. Let’s double down until they finish the job.

Thank you for all your hard work and support. Onwards!

— Camila Thorndike, DC Policy Director at the CCAN Action Fund

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Veronica Robb

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Veronica Robb

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 80+ organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Veronica Robb is a summer intern working on the campaign. Here’s her story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Veronica and I am an intern at CCAN on the DC carbon pricing campaign.

Veronica Robb

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I grew up in Maryland where we aren’t strangers to hot summers, but it seemed like every year I would hear that it was “The hottest summer on record.” We seemed to be breaking our record every single year, andI wanted to do what I could to help combat extreme weather like this before our environment becomes uninhabitable.

Why does the campaign to put a price on carbon in DC and rebate the revenue matter to you?

I have many friends with asthma so air quality has always been a relevant issue for me, and this seems like the best way to combat large-scale pollution. It’s so rewarding working on a campaign like this. I feel like I’m really helping make an impact on our environmental future.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

This is actually the first environmental campaign I’ve worked on.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

The preservation of the Chesapeake Bay has always been discussed throughout my life, and pollution and extreme weather have hurt the watershed tremendously. While the Bay is doing better than it has in the past, we have a long way to go before it is truly healthy. Legislation like a carbon fee and rebate program would help lessen pollution on the East Coast.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

My favorite moment so far was tabling at the Kennedy Street Festival. I just really enjoyed engaging with the community. It’s really nice to see people interested in our policy.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

When we held the press conference and then did the deliveries to the Council Members, it gave me a lot of hope to see how many people showed up and are willing to fight for the betterment of their community.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

My biggest accomplishment has probably been petitioning. I’ve never worked on a campaign before and I have enjoyed so much of it. I love going into the community and discussing the policy with people and engaging in a meaningful dialogue about the steps we as a community need to take to create a healthier planet.

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Empowering

If you could tame a wild animal to do your bidding, what would it be?

I would tame an owl. I grew up loving Harry Potter, and even if my owl didn’t deliver mail, it would be cool to have a bird buddy like Hedwig.

CCAN Action Fund Statement: D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh Introduces Climate Bill that Excludes Carbon Price

CCAN Action Fund Statement: D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh Introduces Climate Bill that Excludes Carbon Price

Groups Express Surprise that Bill does Not Include a Carbon Price Given Months of Advocacy and Broad Grassroots Support

WASHINGTON, DC — On Tuesday, July 10th, D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced an “omnibus” bill on climate change that falls short of what many advocates had pushed for. But the bill still includes several landmark features that significantly enhance the city’s commitment to clean energy. What the bill does NOT include is a clear and robust “price on carbon pollution,” as requested by an 86-group coalition of environmental and justice groups over the past two years. Instead, at the suggestion of local utility Washington Gas, Cheh is increasing the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF) surcharge by a modest amount. The final effect of the bill is that all dirty energy is made slightly more expensive in the city, dirty electricity is phased out completely by 2032, and the revenue raised from the bill — an estimated $26 million in year one — would be invested in green infrastructure and programs.

Similar to a carbon tax in Boulder, Colorado, the fee proposed in Cheh’s bill would apply to electricity generated by fossil fuels. It goes beyond the Boulder approach by including a fee on natural gas and fuel oil too, though also modest. It also increases DC’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to require that 100 percent of the District’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2032, and requires suppliers to purchase a high percentage of their energy through long-term renewable power purchase agreements. This would establish the strongest such goal in the country. It would also establish strong building efficiency standards and would allocate 20 percent of the funds raised by the energy fee to make energy improvements for low-income households.

The bill would increase by 100 percent the city’s existing — though small — SETF surcharge on electricity. The new fee on natural gas and heating fuels would be double that on electricity, but still very modest.

The bill, titled the “Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018,” was co-introduced by Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Trayon White Sr. (Ward 8), and Charles Allen (Ward 6). It was also co-sponsored by Councilmembers David Grosso (At-Large) and Vincent Gray (Ward 7).

In response, CCAN Action Fund Director Mike Tidwell issued the following statement:

“To our surprise and disappointment, Councilmember Mary Cheh has introduced a climate bill that does not include a clear, transparent, and effective ‘price on carbon pollution.’ Instead, the Councilmember is putting forward a good bill — but a bill that is significantly scaled-back at the suggestion of Washington Gas. The Cheh bill will cut emissions and create investments in green infrastructure. But it misses the opportunity — as proposed by a broad coalition of experts and advocates — to more aggressively ‘price’ carbon pollution while fully protecting low- and moderate-income residents AND stimulating the local economy.

“While we are still evaluating the features of Cheh’s bill, it is heartening to see it follows many of the principles that environmental advocates have embraced. It is strong on driving down carbon emissions, includes the strongest renewable electricity standard in the country, and makes some effort — but not enough — to ensure that low-income Washingtonians can prosper under this policy. And the building code mandate under the bill could set a precedent among other cities throughout the country.

“While CCAN Action Fund regrets that Councilmember Cheh ultimately ignored the best and most equitable approach to climate policy — which is advocated by the 86 groups behind the ‘Put A Price On It’ coalition — it is clear that she has chosen a ‘runner-up’ approach that is comprehensive and begins to address fairness. Clearly, none of this would have been possible without the relentless advocacy of the ‘Put A Price On It’ coalition.

“We now call on all our DC Councilmembers to ensure that a strong bill passes that protects our communities and significantly reduces emissions. If so, we are confident this could inspire other cities to take similar action.”

Additional Information

From Cheh’s press release, major provisions in the legislation include:

  • New Building Emissions Standards – The Building Energy Performance Standard Program for privately-owned and District government buildings will be the first of its kind in the country. Implemented by the Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE), the program will guide the District’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, most often large commercial buildings, in retrofitting their buildings to become more energy efficient.
  • Transitioning to Renewable Energy Sources – Currently, Pepco customers must opt-in to purchasing energy from renewable sources. The “Clean Energy DC Act” would flip that option so that residents must opt-out of purchasing renewable energy. The legislation also requires that 100% of electricity sold in the District come from renewable sources by 2032 and, over the next three years, 80% of the standard offer service electricity be purchased via long-term contracts with renewable sources.
  • Funding local sustainability initiatives – To fund the Green Finance Authority, commonly known as the District’s Green Bank, and strengthen funding available for low-incoming energy assistance, this bill will increase the SETF fee for electricity and natural gas consumption. It does so in a way that will result in less than a $1 increase to residents’ average monthly electric bills and about a $2.10 increase to residents’ average monthly gas bills. 20% of the generated funds will be used by DOEE to provide relief to low-income residents struggling to pay energy bills.
  • Transportation Emissions –Once passed, this legislation will direct the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue rules that make the District’s vehicle excise tax amount dependent upon fuel efficiency, therefore incentivizing the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles. The bill will also authorize the Mayor to establish a greenhouse gas fee on motor fuel if Maryland or Virginia also do so and authorizes the Mayor to join in any forthcoming regional transportation-sector greenhouse gas reduction initiatives.

A copy of the legislation is available here: CleanEnergy DC Omnibus.

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Faces of the Campaign: Meet Megan Seymour

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Megan Seymour

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 80+ organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Megan Seymour is a summer intern working on the campaign. Here’s her story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Megan Seymour. I am a graduate student at Georgetown University pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy in Environmental Policy.

Megan Seymour

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I’ve always been really passionate about conservation and nature, so my interest in the outdoors lead me to take environmental science classes in undergrad. We delved into an in-depth analysis of climate change, which was horrifying enough on its own, but in one of my classes we talked about the effects of the US agricultural system on climate change, water and land loss, etc. I started doing more of my own research into food policy in the US and watched documentaries like Food, Inc. and Fed Up. It was extremely disturbing to see inside the factory farms. The utter lack of animal rights, the unregulated, unsanitary farming conditions, the myriad of antibiotics, preservatives, and toxic chemicals being put in our food, and the wasteful way in which we harvest and consume food was gut-wrenching to witness. This is when I really became more fired up about food policy and its connection to climate change.

Why does the campaign to put a price on carbon in DC and rebate the revenue matter to you?

The campaign matters to me because climate change is not going to stop on its own and it affects every single human being across the globe. Climate change is something that has severe life-or-death consequences and is irreversible. The added effects of everyone’s actions and behaviors have lead to where we are now. This is why we have to make a collective effort to improve our behavior if we want to slow climate change and preserve our world so that future generations can enjoy it too.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

This is the first campaign I have worked on so I don’t have much to compare it to, but so far it has been an extremely rewarding experience.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

I’m from Fairfax, VA but I went to undergrad in Boston, and the extreme weather I experienced while living there was a direct impact of climate change. Boston experienced abnormal numbers of massive snow storms when I was living there. Being on the coastline, communities there are suffering the effects of shoreline retreat, flooding, and increased severity of storms and nor’easters.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

I’ve loved being able to connect with people while petitioning and feel like I’m making a difference by gaining support for this policy.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

Going to an ANC meeting in Ward 7 I saw so many passionate citizens voicing their opinions and coming together to try to make their community a better place. This is really the foundation of community organizing and it was great to see people mobilizing themselves.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

I lead the efforts on our Letter Writing Campaign, which was my first time organizing an event for a campaign.

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Inspiring

What is your favorite pizza place in DC?

&pizza!! So good.

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Kyle Legacion

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Kyle Legacion

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 70 organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Kyle Legacion is a summer intern working on the campaign. Here’s his story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Kyle Legacion. I’m a rising senior at the University of Minnesota / Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, pursuing a minor in Sustainability Studies. Here at CCAN, I’m interning on the DC Carbon Pricing Campaign.

What woke you up to the climate crisis?Kyle Legacion - Put A Price On It DC Intern

I moved around a lot growing up. I was born in Southern California, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, moved to Houston, TX after my sophomore year of high school, and then ended up in Minneapolis, MN for my undergrad. I spent last fall studying abroad in London. This was around the same time that Hurricane Harvey swept Houston with historic flooding, and that major wildfires were raging through California.

All of these places I’ve called home were being attacked by extreme weather events because of climate change, and there I was in London, thousands of miles away, unable to do anything about it. I remember reading all of these headlines and seeing pictures of the destruction and feeling completely, utterly helpless.

That was when I vowed I’d never stand idly by in the climate crisis again.

Why does the campaign to put a price on carbon in DC and rebate the revenue matter to you?

I believe that a carbon pricing policy is one of the most effective ways to combat climate change. If we want to achieve anything meaningful in the fight against climate change, then we must change the rules that the biggest climate offenders are playing within. The campaign is important to me because a carbon fee-and-rebate policy would do exactly that, while also uplifting the communities that have been hit the hardest by the effects of climate change.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

The only other environmental campaign I’ve participated in was for my Natural Resource & Environmental Policy class I took this past spring, where I spent the semester working on a group project to implement organics recycling at a local business. This campaign is working at a much larger scale, with impacts that would be far-reaching.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

Like I mentioned above, climate change has caused severe weather events to hit many of the places I’ve lived before, uprooting many families and destroying many homes.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

So far, my favorite moment in the campaign has been the press conference we held outside of the Councilmembers’ offices. We had over 100 supporters in attendance, and even performed a literature drop afterwards.
It was a really cool experience seeing different parts of the community come together in support of the campaign, and visiting all of the Councilmember’s offices to talk about the campaign

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

I would say that the press conference was a time I’ve witnessed community power. We had a diverse group of representatives speak about why a carbon fee-and-rebate policy is needed now, and it was a powerful moment to see these people speak from their heart about their experiences with climate change.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

So far, I would say it’s been bird-dogging Councilmember Elissa Silverman.

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Meaningful

If you could tame a wild animal to do your bidding, what would it be?

A fox!

DC Policy Center issues misleading and misinformed criticism of DC Carbon Price proposal

DC Policy Center issues misleading and misinformed criticism of DC Carbon Price proposal

The DC Policy Center recently published an article that takes a misleading and evasive look at our proposed carbon pricing policy. The article fails to come up with an alternative to tackling climate or to allow DC to achieve its 2032 or 2050 climate goals, and it’s worth considering the interests behind this think tank — executives from Pepco, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, and development companies sit on the board.

Regardless, the article has several failings, some of which we will to respond here.

DC Policy Center starts with a presumption that pricing must hurt the economy, and ignores (rather than rebuts) our analysis.

DCPC pins its position on the categorical presumption that the “tax revenue, no matter how high and however it is used, will not be sufficient to cover the cost of lost wages and income or the economic activity that drains away from the city.” They offer no support for this presumption – and certainly no analysis of how alternative uses of the revenue would affect the economy. They then wave away a year of intensive design work, stakeholder engagement, and analysis as “a lot of modeling and number crunching,” which they reject without any further reference or substantive critique. DCPC appears to simply be disbelieving, on ideological grounds, the possibility that this policy could be anything other than bad for the economy.

DC Policy Center cites two sources for their presumption of economic loss. Both sources actually support the coalition’s proposal, rather than casting doubt on it.

In The Impacts of a Carbon Tax, Resources for the Future authors point out the potential for well-designed carbon prices to boost employment while limiting economic losses to a few exposed sectors. This is exactly the assessment we presented, when we said the policy could add about 500 net jobs while driving some losses to the utility and professional-service sectors.

The authors point out that “…the employment effects represent much more of a shift in employment—fewer jobs in one sector but more jobs in the other—rather than a change in overall employment.” This is entirely consistent with the coalition’s analysis, and entirely inconsistent with DCPC’s presumption that any such policy must be bad for the economy.

The authors also emphasize the benefit of designing the policy carefully to meet priorities, which directly contradicts DCPC’s assertion that any carbon price is beyond saving from an economic-impact perspective. Specifically, they never say that the price impact is too large for any use of the revenue to repair, and DCPC misrepresents their work by saying they do.

In Effects of a Carbon Tax on the Economy and the Environment, the CBO says plainly, and right up front, “The effects of a carbon tax on the U.S. economy would depend on how the revenues from the tax were used” (italics added). This completely contradicts DCPC’s gloom-and-doom guarantee of economic loss regardless of how revenues are directed. The CBO makes no statement that the burden of the price is automatically larger than the benefit from revenue re-use. DCPC again misrepresents the authors by stating that they find carbon prices to be inevitably more damaging than any use of the revenue could repair, when they say no such thing.

DC Policy Center ignores basic and well-documented opportunities for economic gains through a) reduction of imports and b) shifts in spending to more labor-intensive areas.

DCPC ignores the potential for this policy to reduce imports and redirect resources domestically, but that’s a crucial aspect of any local economic analysis. In the case of the District of Columbia, which imports almost all its energy, a policy that reduces energy spending while stimulating consumers to spend money locally with the money instead absolutely has the potential to expand the local economy.

Also, energy sectors tend to divert a very small amount of each dollar spent to actually hiring people. In DC, where we import energy, almost no energy-industry employment is inside our boundaries. By contrast, the sectors that benefit from residents spending their rebate – restaurants, retail, basic health care, etc. – tend to operate in the District and tend to spend a lot of their revenue hiring people. It is this shift which underlies our assertion that the policy has the potential to expand employment rather than force a contraction.

DC Policy Center characterizes revenue-return strategy as cynical politics rather than legitimate economic stimulus.

Groups left, right and center focused on pricing carbon agree that boosting consumer spending will stimulate the economy. Groups opposed to rebates nevertheless focus on payroll-tax reductions in pursuit of the same effect – increasing consumer spending capacity. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama made some form of a more-cash-in-pockets approach (Bush relying on a direct rebate check, Obama on a payroll-tax reduction) a part of their respective strategies for recovery from the dot-com bubbles and the financial crisis. This is basic economic strategy, not political trickery.

DC Policy Center makes blatant errors when discussing the Maryland carbon fee bill 

The author completely mis-characterizes the Maryland carbon fee bill. The bill was introduced in early 2018 in the House of Delegates only — not the Senate as DCPC asserts. And the House sponsors explicitly intended the bill to be for “educational” purposes only during the legislative session that ended in April. There was a packed and positive House committee hearing, but final passage was never pushed by the sponsors who intend to bring it back next year with growing support for a serious push for passage in 2019.

DC Policy Center didn’t even get our name right!

The author repeatedly characterizes the proposal as coming from “Chesapeake Climate Action Network.” But the “Put a Price on It, DC” campaign was co-founded and actively co-led by a large number of the District’s leading environmental and social justice organizations including the Sierra Club DC Chapter, Citizens’ Climate Lobby DC, Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVa), and DC Environmental Network. It has since gained support from dozens of additional organizations and businesses, now totaling more than 70 coalition members.  Additionally, the economic analysis DCPC disparages was conducted separately by the Center for Climate Strategies.

We know that a carbon fee-and-rebate is the best way to bring D.C. to a renewable-based economy in a way that will benefit everyone. Sign and share the petition, call the Chairman, and join the movement.

Achieving the DC climate goals – we can do it!

Achieving the DC climate goals – we can do it!

Last year DC Mayor Bowser made a pledge to not only the people of DC, but to the citizens of the world. This pledge was her commitment to the Paris Climate Accord.

The pledge included a vow to reduce DC Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent by 2032 and 80 percent by 2050 compared to 2006 levels. Mayor Bowser continued to push expectations higher by pledging to make the District carbon-neutral by 2050 and by joining other cities in the C40 group.

All of these ambitious targets require a plan, and in 2016 the DC Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) released its Clean Energy DC plan. This is an outline of how the District can reach decarbonization by 2050. Unfortunately, it is only an outline and accomplishing the ambitious goals set by Mayor Bowser will require swift legislative action. Legislative action that creates and develops the necessary mechanisms for success.

It has been made clear in the weekly Working Group meetings that we are not on track to meet the District’s 2032 climate and energy goals.

A central instrument needed is a carbon price. The “Put A Price On It, DC” coalition has proposed a carbon fee-and-rebate policy in a draft bill called the “Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of DC” as a key tool to meet our goals. But before getting into that, let’s go over how DC is off track.

Clean Energy DC Plan

The Clean Energy DC plan has three main goals: reduce GHG emissions, reduce energy consumption, and increase renewable energy.

Meeting these goals in DC hinges on the origin and consumption of energy. This is because the majority of DC energy is still sourced from fossil fuels. The share of electricity provided by natural gas grew by 62 percent from 2013 to 2016. This growth was driven by the economics of cheap natural gas, and it only demonstrates the power of a simple price signal: the least expensive energy source will win. Carbon pricing can bring about another shift — a shift to renewable energy.

The Clean Energy DC plan is heading in the right direction. It focuses on improving building energy efficiency, transportation, and energy supply. Unfortunately, it does not outline in detail any mechanisms that will accomplish the targets set by Mayor Bowser and the DOEE.

There is the additional dilemma before us that there is currently no plan to achieve the 80 percent by 2050 goal, and that C40 in their Deadline 2020 called on cities in developed nations that also have healthy economies to have more ambitious date targets. DC’s goals are not aggressive enough as they stand, and they certainly cannot be met with the structures in place.

Reduce GHG emissions

There are many questions raised when considering DC’s plan to reduce GHG emissions. This is a testament to how little the District has accomplished in terms of energy efficiency and local (renewable) generation. Even though there has been a significant decrease since 2006 due to the switch from coal to natural gas, these methane-driven emission reduction claims should be viewed with skepticism. The Environmental Defense Fund reported that emissions of natural gas (methane), which is upwards of 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide, are dramatically higher than official accounts. In Pennsylvania, which is within the grid that powers DC, fugitive methane emissions cause the same near-term climate pollution as 11 coal-fired power plants.

Even if the accounting behind DC’s climate progress were trustworthy, it is highly unlikely that the rapid decline in emissions will continue without substantive new policy interjections. According to the Clean Energy DC plan the 50 percent goal can be met. However, at least 25 percent of the policies cited have not been introduced.

A sizeable amount of GHG reductions to meet the 50 percent 2032 goal are cited as coming from the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standard which is under threat. The District is resisting this rollback, but the details on actual emission reductions, enforcement and monitoring remain unclear.

An additional 6.4 percent comes from assumed changes in transportation changes, designated above as “mode share.” This transition would require 50 percent of people to use transit, 25 percent to walk or bike, and the remaining 25 percent to be driving.

Three things that are clear about the Clean Energy DC plan: There are too many assumptions, we are trading one fossil fuel for another, and the goals are not on an aggressive enough timeline. Closing the emissions gap demands more ambitious approach. A carbon tax is a sure-fire way to start ACTUALLY making meaningful reductions in emissions.

Energy Use Reductions

As of now the planning for energy use reductions will only result in an 18 percent reduction. This is a large divergence from the 2032 goal of a 50 percent. Similar to the GHG reductions, the projected energy use reduction rely heavily on the federal CAFE standards, accounting for 10.1 percent of the total expected.

A portion of the 32 percent gap can be made up for by implementing a strong carbon price. It would signal a shift of behavioral change and encourage people to be more conscious of their energy consumption by reducing use and looking for more energy efficient alternatives within their own household.

Additionally, revenue from a robust carbon fee would be directed to greenhouse gas reduction programs which focus on energy efficiency, supporting greener buildings, and the installation and modernization of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and other large building systems. All of these actions would go a long way in reducing energy use in DC.

Increase Renewable Energy

Unfortunately, the renewable energy projections also fall far from the mark. There is a gap of 18 percent between the goal and current estimates. This is because meaningful action has not yet been taken to increase renewable energy sources.

A more comprehensive and timely solution would couple a strengthened RPS with an equitable carbon price. With an economy-wide fee on carbon pollution, DOEE’s existing work would be supercharged.

Just imagine — when the true cost of fossil fuels is appropriately accounted for, lines will form around the block for programs like Solar for All! Reducing emissions, advancing clean energy in the near term, and closing the gap towards our 2032 goals.

What we’re proposing: Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of DC

The District requires a strong and equitable carbon price to transition to being carbon-free. Fortunately for the DOEE, the Put A Price On It DC coalition has done the planning and analysis to draft a instrument that would put DC on the path to attaining all of its climate goals. A strong, fair and equitable carbon fee-and-rebate policy.

The “Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of DC” would reduce GHG emissions from the use of electricity, natural gas, and home-heating fuel by 23 percent by 2032. Additionally, transportation emissions would fall by approximately 6-10 percent compared to DC’s current level.

In order for a carbon fee to be constructive in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement, it needs to be comprehensive and fair. The set price should be strong enough to catalyze an energy transition and change behavioral patterns of energy consumption. The coalition’s proposal has a price beginning at $20 per ton of carbon dioxide with increases of $10 every year, to eventually reach $150 per ton 2032. A clear price signal will be sent and instantly yield clean energy growth, energy efficient construction, and investments based on behavior-change.

If DC Council passes a carbon pricing bill similar to the coalition bill, the policies outlined in the Clean Energy DC plan would be no longer be simply “figureheads,” they would be achievable and manageable.

In the first year, the coalition carbon fee would generate an estimated $141 million, with economic models predicting that revenue would top off at $596.5 million in 2032.These funds would contribute to electricity system modernization, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The bill proposed by the “Put A Price On It, DC” coalition is backed by more than 70 organizations, faith groups and businesses. It has received input from hundreds of community leaders, engaged thousands of residents, and is based on science, fairness, durability, and economics.

With multiple apparent gaps in the DOEE plans to meet Mayor Bowser’s and the Districts pledges, another instrument is required to facilitate all three of Clean Energy DC goals: carbon pricing.

What we pass here in DC will have cascading influence on other states and members of Congress. What we pass here in DC needs to be something that will encourage others to follow our lead.


Images:
Mayor Bowser Featured Image: (Photo credit: Executive Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser/Khalid Naji-Allah)
Mayor Bowser #Women4Climate: Mayor Bowser
Figures 9-11
Paris sign: By Miguel Discart (2017-05-24_19-12-31_ILCE-6500_DSC01230) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A bill is coming? Here’s our take.

A bill is coming? Here’s our take.

During a press conference on June 5, we discussed the differences between Councilmember Mary Cheh’s draft proposal for a carbon pricing bill and our own proposal. To clear up any confusion, here’s some context on what’s happening with the two differing proposals. 

After you read, send a message to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson urging him to introduce the carbon pricing bill as soon as possible.


We appreciate Councilmember Cheh’s leadership towards strong climate policy. Since October, her office has convened a “working group” to fulfill the Chairman’s request for a consensus approach. In May, Councilmember Mary Cheh’s office released a discussion proposal that aims to find a compromise between the aims of advocates and business representatives.

We are excited to see that the proposal prices heating fuels, takes an innovative approach to transportation, and strengthens the Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS. It directs revenue to residential rebates, the Green Bank, and energy efficiency.

Councilmember Cheh’s proposal is headed in the right direction. Before passage, however, we believe that it must be strengthened.

In order to meet Mayor Bowser’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement’s emissions reduction targets and to carbon neutrality by 2050, we need a much more robust price on carbon.

The Coalition remains committed to a policy that starts at $20 per ton in 2019 and rises $10 per year to reach $150 per ton in 2032. If that sounds high, consider that even conservative national proposals begin at $40/ton, and experts recommend that prices reach the hundreds – if not thousands of dollars – within a few decades.

Councilmember Cheh’s proposal cuts this price path ambition in half. It begins pricing only heating fuels at $10/ton, increases only $5/year, and caps at only $100 in 2038. As a result, the Coalition proposal cuts 2.2 times more carbon from oil and natural gas use. It would cut climate pollution in DC by at least 23% by 2032. The alternative will reduce less.

There is also a reduction in scope of the carbon price itself. Cheh’s proposal excludes electricity from the price, which by 2013 accounting comprises about 55% of District emissions. Instead, her proposal relies on Chairman Mendelson’s 100% by 2050 RPS bill introduced last month.

The best research on what is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption, for instance the Beyond 2 Degree Scenario from the International Energy Agency, shows that the United States and other developed countries need to move to 100% clean energy across the entire economy (not just electricity) by 2050. This necessitates a move to 100% clean electricity even sooner so that renewable electricity is able to power transportation and heating needs by 2050. If the Council is intent on reducing electricity emissions via a new RPS, the target date must be significantly sooner.

That said, we applaud innovative elements of Councilmember Cheh’s proposal that would lead to additional clean energy development in the region, and push Pepco-Exelon to green its energy mix faster.

We also applaud her approach to transportation, which mirrors our own. The final bill should specify that DC will price gasoline and diesel once one neighboring jurisdiction does the same.

Our Coalition continues to believe that rebating 75% of the money to District residents is the best use of the funds. However, we are open to Cheh’s proposal of appointing a temporary commission to address how to fairly send revenues back to low and middle-income households.

We again wish to thank Councilmember Cheh for her sincere efforts on pricing carbon in the District. It has been a remarkable investment of time and care that reflects how seriously she takes the issue of climate disruption. We look forward to working with the Council to introduce a strengthened bill before the summer recess and passing it this year.