These states are voting on 2018 ballot measures to fight climate change and protect the environment
Not only have congressional Republicans refused to take any steps to protect the environment and address climate change, but under Trump, Republicans are actively exacerbating the problem and putting public health and geopolitical stability at risk. However, several states aren’t waiting for the federal government to tackle environmental challenges, and 2018 will see a handful of important ballot measures go before voters, aimed at doing do what Congress won’t.
Most critical among these is Washington’s Initiative 1631, which would make Washington the first state in the country to put a price on carbon via ballot initiative. Covering roughly 80 percent of carbon emissions, this measure would invest the $1 billion in annual revenue it would expect to bring in in programs to promote clean air, water, and energy, especially in low-income areas and communities of color that would be most at risk of the devastating effects of climate change and environmental contamination.
Crucially, this proposal aims to succeed where others have failed by solving the thorny political economy issues of carbon regulation. Local environmentalists had previously tried in 2016 to pass a carbon tax initiative that sought out conservative and libertarian allies by refunding all of its revenue in the form of offsets to other taxes, but it lost badly. Instead, Initiative 1631 invests all its revenue in pro-environment programs in an attempt to bring key advocacy groups to the table and form a strong progressive coalition of supporters in this blue state.
Since it’s a fee instead of a tax, Washington law lets the ballot language lead with the benefits first, and the revenue can be used specifically for environmental purposes instead of going to the state’s general treasury. Consequently, if this initiative becomes law, it will both strike a blow against carbon pollution and provide a model for other states to emulate.
While Washington’s initiative has the most far-reaching consequences, it isn’t the only environmental measure on the November ballot. Both Arizona and Nevada, which have some of the most abundant potential for solar energy, are voting on ambitious plans to require half of all energy come from renewable sources by 2030, and both Colorado and Florida will vote on measures to restrict environmentally risky oil and natural gas projects that could threaten the health of the public and the oceans themselves.
Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry isn’t rolling over for Colorado’s aforementioned initiative, Proposition 112. They’re funding Amendment 74, which would force the government to compensate property owners for any law or regulation that causes a decrease in property value. While that may sound like common sense protections related to existing eminent domain laws, it’s designed to render Proposition 112 a dead letter by making it exorbitantly expensive to halt new energy extraction projects by forcing compensation for losses in property value related to future fossil fuel extraction, and it could have dangerous spillover effects in other policy areas.
You can find a table summarizing these measures below, and you can view our full list of measures to watch on a variety of topics in this spreadsheet. The spreadsheet details whether each measure was placed on the ballot by elected representatives or whether it was directly initiated by voters, as well as whether it’s a statute or amends a state constitution or local government charter. To read our first post in this series on ballot measures affecting voting rights, please click here.