New DC “carbon fee” proposed; activists say it’s not enough

New DC “carbon fee” proposed; activists say it’s not enough

Climate Activists Welcome Carbon Fee Outline from Mary Cheh, but Say it Must be Stronger and Include Household Rebates

At press conference at Wilson Building: Community leaders say legislation is coming “soon” from Cheh but express fear it will not meet the District’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

WASHINGTON, DC — More than 100 environmentalists, community leaders and students gathered on the steps of the Wilson Building Tuesday afternoon to welcome a carbon fee proposal from D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3). But leaders insisted that Cheh’s draft plan to fight climate change was not strong enough, and that it needs a stronger “rebate” feature to protect low- and moderate-income households.

Cheh, who chairs the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, floated a carbon “pricing” draft outline to environmental and business leaders late last month. Her stated goal is to convert the outline into a fully introduced bill “soon” for the full Council to consider. Cheh’s framework proposes a starting fee of $10 per ton of carbon pollution that increases to $100 per ton by the year 2038.

At the Tuesday press conference at the Wilson Building, activists thanked Cheh for pushing forward with this state-level proposal to put a “price” on climate pollution. But the proposed carbon fee is too low to effectively cut carbon in the city in line with DC’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, they argued. And they say Cheh and other Council leaders must commit to a transparent way of sharing the majority of carbon revenues with DC residents.

As an alternative, environmental leaders pointed to their own draft legislative proposal, crafted over a two-year period by groups in the 70-member “Put A Price On It, D.C.” coalition. Their plan begins with a $20 per ton tax and increases to $150 per ton by 2032. Further, the coalition’s proposal also rebates the majority of all revenue collected to DC residents in an economically transparent and equitable way. Leaders called on Cheh to significantly strengthen her carbon proposal before any bill introduction and to explicitly dedicate most of the revenue to rebates.

Read more about the differences between Cheh’s proposal and the coalition’s proposal here.

“If we don’t take strong climate action now, we’ll be on the path to an economic catastrophe,” said Tom Matzzie, Founder & CEO of CleanChoice Energy, who did not speak at the press conference. “Fossil fuels shouldn’t get away with pollution without paying for their mess. We need a level playing field for renewable energy “

“Long-time DC residents will suffer the most from the impacts of climate change,” said Kymone Freeman, Co-Founder of We Act Radio. “There is no more time to wait. We need a carbon pricing policy that is strong and fair, and brings justice to D.C.’s frontline communities.”

“We have to lower our consumption of fossil fuels to mitigate climate change and ensure we have a planet that will support human life in the future,” said Judith Howell, a security officer in the District and a member of the SEIU 32BJ union. “But we must do that in a way that doesn’t put the entire burden on working families.”

“I’m calling as a faith leader for polluters to take responsibility for the harm that their pollution is causing for the ‘least of these.’”  said Rev. Danté King from Forward Church and Director of Community Engagement at the community solar nonprofit Groundswell. “A fair and equitable carbon price policy — one that includes a progressive rebate — would reflect our city’s values and become a source of hope in our warming world.”

“Delayed action multiplies the fatal consequences of climate change,” said Camila Thorndike, Carbon Pricing Director at CCAN Action Fund. “District residents and leaders have been asking for a carbon fee for over three years, and we expect a strong bill introduced before summer recess.”

The District government currently has a goal — called the “Sustainable DC 2.0” plan — of reducing carbon emissions in the city by 50 percent by 2032. And in June 2017, Mayor Bowser publicly pledged to uphold the goals of the Paris climate accord by reducing citywide emissions by 80 percent by 2050. However, D.C. is currently not on track to meet those goals. The proposal put forth by the “Put A Price On It, D.C.” coalition would reduce carbon emissions 23 percent by 2032, putting the District on track to achieve its climate goals.

You can read a summary and the full text of the coalition bill here, and read an initial analysis of Cheh’s alternate proposal here.

The “Put A Price On It, D.C.” coalition is comprised of 70 climate and justice advocacy organizations, including more than a dozen local businesses.

Jamie DeMarco, Citizens Climate Lobby,, 443-845-5601
Denise Robbins, CCAN Action Fund, Communications Director,, 608-620-8819
Camila Thorndike, CCAN Action Fund, Carbon Pricing Director,, 541-951-2619