Vote for Climate Justice This November

by Ake Kankirawatana

Washingtonians everywhere should care about the serious threat that pollution poses to the health and wellbeing of our communities. Initiative 1631 is a broad and inclusive proposal to invest in clean air and clean energy in Washington State while reducing our reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

Making sure our communities have a safe, clean environment is crucial to the advancement and integration of immigrant and refugee communities in America. Unfortunately, immigrant and refugee communities and communities of color tend to be more adversely affected by air pollution, water contamination and climate change. Often, the communities that shoulder the worst of this burden have contributed the least to its cause.

Initiative 1631, or the Protect Washington Act, was drafted by the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a diverse coalition of communities of color organizations, labor and environmental groups, and other stakeholders whose communities experience the negative impacts of pollution the most. OneAmerica and OneAmerica Votes serve on the Boards of the Alliance and the Yes on 1631 Campaign and played a significant role in drafting the proposal, which was the product of extensive input from communities across Washington State.

The initiative is both equitable and responsible, and it will ensure that Washington’s environment stays healthy and clean for generations to come. It will create jobs for and improve the long-term health outcomes Washington’s communities, especially those that are disproportionately impacted by climate change and the pollution that causes it.

If passed, I-1631 will discourage large polluters from emitting greenhouse gases by placing a fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide they emit, starting in 2020 and increasing by $2 each year until the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2035 are met and the 2050 goals are on track to be met. The biggest polluters in the state will pay the fee, and the revenue generated will be invested in clean air, clean energy, water quality, and forest health projects and programs in local communities in order to accelerate reductions in carbon pollution.

I-1631 is expected to raise roughly $1 billion a year in revenue, which will be allocated as follows:

  • 70% will be invested in clean energy infrastructure, like new wind and solar projects, with 15% of that going directly to low-income communities to help them make the transition to clean energy without the burden of increased utility costs
  • 25% will be used to promote clean water and healthy forests, including increased measures for pollution cleanup and prevention
  • 5% will be invested in local communities that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, like rising sea levels and increased forest fires

Solutions to climate change, pollution, and other environmental issues have traditionally excluded the voices of communities of color, and have not taken into account the needs of diverse communities. By building power in immigrant and refugee communities and building a space for their voices to be heard in policy discussions, OneAmerica is working to provide environmental justice for all.

Under the measure, hundreds of millions of dollars would be invested in communities like south King County, Vancouver, Yakima, and other areas most impacted by carbon pollution. These communities will benefit from cleaner energy and transportation infrastructure, and through community workforce agreement requirements, the ballot measure would ensure that local residents will have the opportunity to find work in new, green jobs generated by these projects.

Residents of these areas will also have direct input in ensuring that the revenue generated from the fee is being invested effectively and wisely. A public oversight board comprised of experts in clean energy and pollution reduction and representatives from tribal governments, labor unions, and residents of heavily polluted areas will be responsible for the development, approval, and oversight of all projects funded by the initiative. This upholds the principles of accountability and equity by limiting the influence of the fossil fuel industry.  Real people and experts, not politicians and lobbyists that can be bought by corporations, will oversee implementation of this measure.

Join OneAmerica Votes and the Yes on 1631 Campaign to mobilize the vote for Initiative 1631 come November. I-1631 is the most comprehensive, just, and inclusive measure of its kind in the nation, and it is backed by an unprecedented coalition of people of color, environmentalists, unions and workers, businesses, health professionals.  1631 will preserve Washington’s air and water, create good jobs, and kickstart the transition to a greener and healthier future.