#PriceItDC at the DOEE Budget Hearing

#PriceItDC at the DOEE Budget Hearing

Committee on Transportation and the Environment

On Tuesday, CCAN Carbon Pricing Campaign Director Camila Thorndike represented nearly 70 organizations when speaking to the D.C. Council about the necessity of a carbon price at the DOEE Budget Oversight Hearing.

Mayor Bowser and the D.C. council plan for D.C. to be carbon neutral by 2050. Camila reminded the council that “the least expensive fuel will win”, emphasizing how important a carbon price is as we move away from fossil fuels. DC needs substantive policy interjections if we want to have any hope of reaching our carbon neutral goal.

WATCH the amazing Camila give her testimony — or, read a script below.


Thank you to Committee Chair Cheh for the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing. My name is Camila Thorndike, and I am here representing nearly 70 organizations and thousands of voters behind the growing campaign to Put a Price on It D.C. We are proud to work with your office, with Director Wells, and the rest of the Council to advance comprehensive climate policy.

First, we applaud Director Wells and the Bowser administration for setting ambitious goals.

Last year, Mayor Bowser told the world “We’re Still In” the Paris Climate Accord. The Sustainable DC Plan establishes commitments for the District to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2006 levels by 2032 and 80% by 2050, which the Administration again affirmed as a member of the C40 cities.

At the North American Climate Summit last December, Mayor Bowser pushed expectations even higher by pledging to make the District carbon-neutral by 2050. She said: “we will not let federal inaction hinder our progress.”

We are now over a year into Trump’s presidency. States and cities that have declared themselves leaders in the resistance now need to deliver results. So, what has been achieved so far?

The 2017 Sustainable DC Progress Report cites a 24% reduction from 2006 emission levels. Unfortunately, the lion’s share of this progress can be attributed not to local leadership, but to fuel switching at the grid level.

According to the PSC, the share of electricity provided by natural gas grew by 62 percent from 2013 to 2016. This was driven by the economics of cheap natural gas, demonstrating the power of a simple price signal: the least expensive fuel will win. (Indeed, we need look no farther to understand why carbon pricing is the most effective of climate policies.)

Unfortunately, even D.C.’s methane-driven emission reduction claims should be viewed with skepticism. In February, Environmental Defense Fund reported that emissions of natural gas, or methane — which is upwards of 86 times stronger a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — are dramatically higher than official state accounts. In Pennsylvania, which is within the PJM grid that powers D.C., wasted gas causes “the same near-term climate pollution as 11 coal-fired power plants.”

Even if the accounting behind D.C.’s climate progress were trustworthy, it is highly unlikely that the rapid decline in emissions will continue without substantive new policy interjections.

So, in what kind of policy should D.C. taxpayers and voters place their trust for a livable future?

First, let us acknowledge that managing the entire energy transition through agency programs is an overwhelming and unreasonable demand. What is needed is a fundamental shift. The fastest way to catalyze a comprehensive, cost-effective and lasting transition to a carbon-free D.C. is a strong and equitable price on carbon.

Councilmembers and Director Wells: providing genuine climate leadership to the nation is a tough job. The market should be working for you, not against you.

With an economy-wide fee on carbon pollution, DOEE’s existing work will 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!

And while there is much to like in the DOEE budget, I want to end with a note on equity, because we are concerned about the budget’s $90,000 cut to Environmental Justice.

Any change in energy policy and programs has a price effect. In other words, nearly every single choice you make redistributes income. In the era of the radical GOP tax overhaul and significant budget surplus in D.C., there is no excuse not to ensure equitable outcomes in climate and energy policy.

This means increasing funding for Environmental Justice. It means supporting not only a carbon fee, but a carbon rebate — especially for families being punished in the current economy.

The Carbon Fee-and-Rebate creates a sustainable long-term strategy for reducing CO2 emissions, because citizens are highly likely to support a policy that will help them cope with higher energy prices during the economy’s transition to clean, renewable energy.

We are running out of time to stabilize our climate. 2017 gave us a world where truly extreme weather events appear to be the new normal – wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, a “bomb cyclone” snow storm, and 82 degree days in February.

Putting a price on every ton of carbon pollution is one of the most effective ways to equitably reduce pollution and increase prosperity. The Carbon Fee-and-Rebate would ensure we are “backing up our DC values with action,” as Mayor Bowser pledged in Chicago.

We look forward to working with you to ensure this bedrock policy is finally put into place.

Coalition sends letter urging DC Council to support an equitable carbon rebate policy

Coalition sends letter urging DC Council to support an equitable carbon rebate policy

Representatives from 32 diverse DC-based organizations recently sent a letter to the DC Council regarding the proposed carbon fee-and-rebate policy. The letter urges Councilmembers to introduce a thoughtful and equitable carbon fee-and-rebate policy that address climate change and help all DC communities.

“Investments and rebates for our community must be at the center of what our proposal accomplishes,” the letter states. “Returning revenue to residents as both investments and carbon rebates ensures a fair approach reflective of the District’s values.”

Several Councilmembers, including Councilmember Mary Cheh, have already affirmed their support for a carbon price. In this letter, the signers emphasizes the importance rebating the money raised back to DC households to ensure that the policy does not harm poor communities, but can instead address the injustices that climate change poses to DC’s most vulnerable populations.

DC will likely be the first place in the country to pass a carbon fee and rebate policy. As such, other cities will inevitably look to DC as an example when deliberating similar legislation in the future. We must include a sizable rebate in order to promote justice and to serve as a model for future cities and states across the country.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of the letter, or read below:

Carbon Rebate Sign On Letter-2
Faces of the Campaign: Meet Chelsea Hodgkins

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Chelsea Hodgkins

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Chelsea Hodgkins and I am an intern for the DC Carbon Fee and Rebate Campaign.

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

Working with communities in Ghana experiencing chronic water scarcity.

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

It would mean more equitable outcomes for families across the district and the environment.

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

More capacity to organize and affect change

How has climate change impacted your own community?

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the livelihood of many of my former neighbors will be impacted by climate change induced ocean acidification.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

Yet to come

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

Organizing a community in Ghana to press their local government authorities for their well to be placed on a prioritized list of maintenance.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

Still to come!

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Looking forward to it!

Best place to get breakfast in DC?
Dos Gringos in Mt. Pleasant!
Housing, Gentrification, and the Carbon Rebate in Washington, DC

Housing, Gentrification, and the Carbon Rebate in Washington, DC

-Written by Hayden Higgins

The link between housing and climate change might not be an obvious one. But as they always say in real estate, “Location, location, location.” And no one wants to be located where climate impacts are bound to be worst. Housing inequality is already a striking problem in DC. Climate change would make it worse.

What can we do? A carbon fee and dividend will both effectively lower carbon emissions and give residents relief from our ongoing crisis of displacement by gentrification. Making polluters pay will push the city towards clean energy, but it’ll also put money in the pocketsof residents working to keep up with surging rents.

Climate Change Will Make Gentrification Worse

Some regions will be affected more than others by climate change. For example, Floridian real estate could be decimated by encroaching seas. But it’s also true that environmental impacts are unequally distributed at the city level, too. Neighborhood-by-neighborhood, block-by-block, a “game of inches” will play out as insurers map flood risk.

DC knows that some neighborhoods bear the brunt of pollution. Residents of Ivy City, a Northeast neighborhood without a high income level, have fought for years to improve their air quality by asking the city to stop idling its bus fleet outside their homes. Here, as elsewhere, the poor are disproportionately harmed by pollution; they can’t afford to get out of its way.

As climate impacts become more apparent, an information gap will arise. The banks and real estate agents will have access to complex modeling that predicts the areas where flooding and other impacts are most likely to occur—down to the inch. These areas will be the cheapest ones, with the market shunting poor families into harm’s way.

A vision of this future is articulated in award-winning science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, which takes place in a flooded Gotham. The moneyed Manhattanites have fled for higher ground in the Cloisters. The middle classes live in half-submerged midtown. The poor, finally, live in half-swamped “intertidal” zones where collapses and cholera are common.

How Housing Can Help?

Housing, therefore, is intimately related to the impacts of climate change. It’s also related to solving climate change. As futurist Alex Steffen has persuasively argued, building denser, more walkable cities is one of the premier ways we can cut back our carbon footprint.

It goes further than that: cities can’t just be dense, they need to have good, affordable housing. Sociologist Daniel Aldana-Cohen has argued that “working-class control of cities is crucial to bringing down carbon emissions.” A whole suite of working-class programs are also low-carbon, such as accessible mass transit, walkable and bikeable causeways, and jobs close to homes.

The Fee and Dividend Solution

You don’t need to look far to understand how a carbon fee and dividend would help ameliorate this. Our bill is projected to send a monthly rebate of $160 to a family of four by 2032. Crucially for addressing gentrification, that number is $270 for a comparative family of lower income. This gives residents who may have deep roots but shallower pocketbooks a leg up: the median DC two-bedroom apartment cost $3,190 a month last year. That means the rebate could cover 8 percent of rent, a sizable chunk.

Crucially, a solution needs to have a targeted solution for dealing with the fact that energy efficiency is often worst in housing occupied by the poorest. Utility bills are one of the main  reasons people resort to predatory payday loans, putting poor people in a vicious cycle where they can’t pay for the weather-proofing and other improvements that would help. (World Resources Institute, where I work, has written about ensuring equity in carbon pricing.)

For residents whose first need is meeting rent, the carbon fee and rebate will help keep DC habitable for its residents–in terms of a livable climate and in terms of affordable housing.

DCision18: What the DC Council candidates have to say about the carbon price

DCision18: What the DC Council candidates have to say about the carbon price

Candidate Responses on Carbon Fee and Rebate

DC for Democracy recently asked a wide range of questions to candidates about their stances on various policies. (The full questionnaire can be found here). One of the questions was this: “What is your position on the Carbon Fee Rebate proposal?” Here’s what they had to say:

Council Chair


Calvin Gurley— Accountant and auditor, served as a member of a mayoral commission on public housing

How can one measure it? The past practice of the Council under the current Chair is to
rob and ponder agencies’ funds. For example, the Council emptied the entire set aside
$18 million from the Housing Production Trust Fund. And after public outrage, the
council appropriated the $18 million back into the trust fund the next year. I don’t trust
the current Council to allow this rebate to filter down to the residents.


Ed Lazere— Executive Director at D.C Fiscal Policy Institute

I have supported the DC Carbon Fee Rebate proposal because it is an opportunity to promote environmental, economic and racial justice at the same time. In the absence of federal action on global climate change, states and cities should step in to make a difference. The proposal to put a fee-per-ton on carbon and rebating the proceeds to residents is supported by prominent economists, both liberal and conservative, and environmental experts, as a market-driven way to reduce carbon consumption by encouraging energy conservation and use of renewable energy sources. The Carbon Fee Rebate proposal would rebate the proceeds of the carbon fee to DC residents on a per-capita basis. Analysis shows that for the vast majority of lower income families, the rebate will be larger than their increased energy costs. This means the proposal not only ensures that families with low incomes are not burdened by a carbon fee, but in fact will provide an income boost to these families and reduce income inequality. This proposal is an important way to promote environmental and economic justice at the same time.

Phil Mendelson— Council chairman since 2012

I support the proposal that a fee be imposed per ton of carbon emissions to incentivize use of renewable energy sources. In that regard, I was the author of legislation that established a renewable energy portfolio standard for electric generation — that was our first effort at promoting renewables (which are carbon free). I have given advice to the advocates for the carbon bill on how I think they can get a carbon tax adopted as law.


Ward 1


Kent Boese— D.C law librarian

I fully support the Climate and Community Reinvestment Act. The proposal requires fossil fuel companies doing business in the District to pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they put into the atmosphere. The policy would then rebate the overwhelming share of the collected revenue to D.C. households and small businesses such as those in Ward 1. As the Ward 1 Council member, one of the things I would look for in any legislation is how it impacts and benefits residents and businesses in my community. I am impressed by the thoughtfulness of the Climate and Community Reinvestment Act. What is compelling to me is that Ward 1 businesses such as Cork and Pleasant Pops are behind this bill – great local businesses with engaged owners who understand what it takes to thrive in D.C. while serving as a community partner.

Brianne Nadeau— Ward 1 Council member

I support this proposal and have been eagerly awaiting a draft bill to which I will proudly add my name. I’ve been talking with advocates about this idea for the past several years and I’m eager to moving it forward. I served as the chair of the Local Government Advisory Committee to the Chesapeake Bay Council as well as chair of the Metro Washington Air Quality board to COG. I do this work because climate change is already impacting our world and we have a responsibility to do all we can to impact the behavior of our residents to help protect our environment.


Lori Parker— Former magistrate judge in D.C Superior Court

I support the Carbon Fee and Rebate proposal.




Ward 5


Bradley Thomas— D.C Civil Litigation and Entertainment Lawyer

I am definitely in support of carbon fee rebates. For the last five years, I have been a student at the Harvard University Extension School working towards a masters in Sustainability and Environmental Management. I understand, probably better than anyone currently serving on the Council, that we must take dramatic and comprehensive action to reduce greenhouse gases or we are going to literally cook the planet. Some years ago, an organization was formed taking the name 350.org. The name was chosen based of studies that indicated that the maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere would be 350 parts per million (ppm). In a few short years, we passed right through that level. Today, in February 2018, it is estimated that we have reached a CO2 level of 408 ppm. What does that mean in terms of climate change? Think about this: Globally, seventeen of the eighteen hottest years on record have occurred in this century, those years being 2001 through 2017. The other hottest year on record was 1998.

The polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. That means that sea level is rising. Rising sea level threatens coastal cities and poor island nations. In addition, trapped under the permafrost in Greenland and Antarctica and deep under the ocean floor, are vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more heat trapping than CO2. Once the oceans warm to a certain level, and that methane is released into the atmosphere, we will be at the point of no return, the point from which there will be nothing we can do to halt the destruction of life on this planet as we know it. What does all of that have to do with our local political decisions? Everything. D.C. is on planet Earth and we are global citizens.

On a related front, I am also in favor of banning gas powered leaf blowers, another small but not insignificant source of CO2. Councilmember Cheh has introduced a bill before the Council which calls for the banning of the sale and use of gasoline powered leaf blowers in the District of Columbia effective January 1, 2022., I believe that legislation make sense and I am currently in the process of persuading ANC5E to pass a resolution in support of it. It’s one small step but every step is important.

Ward 6


Charles Allen— Ward 6 Council member

I was one of the earliest supporters of the Put A Price On It campaign to place a fee on carbon producers, which would also provide a rebate to vulnerable residents. This campaign is part of creating a more sustainable DC. In addition to this effort, I authored the legislation creating the District’s first Climate Change and Resiliency Commission; I led the fight to have the District’s retirement and pension funds divest from carbon and fossil fuel investment holdings; I wrote several bills to expand opportunities for solar installation; and I led the effort to name 2018 as the Year of the Anacostia River to celebrate and bring attention to the river on the eastern half of our city.


Lisa Hunter— D.C Healthcare activist

I support this proposal. I am very familiar with policies related to carbon taxes and rebates, having worked on Capitol Hill during the congressional debate of similar federal policy almost a decade ago. Policies that incentivize a shift to green energy and reduce our city’s emissions are becoming increasingly important, and policies that incentivize change by investing funds in our own communities are the optimal way to produce these results. It is also important that we pursue clean energy policy without unduly burdening low income residents who cannot afford to upgrade their homes or modify their energy source with efficiency in mind. To that end, as fees on distribution companies are increased and those costs are passed onto consumers, I would seek to revisit the percentage of carbon rebates going to our low-income residents, currently set at 15 percent. This policy is estimated to increase residential power bills by an average of $9/ month, and while that should be offset by rebates, it is an increase that could be debilitating for families who struggle to pay their bills on a month-to-month basis. We need to make sure the rebate system is designed in such a way that we are proactively insulating low-income residents from price spikes they cannot afford, particularly since they may experience these financial pressures prior to receiving rebates. I would also revise the eligibility requirements for low-income residents. I am not comfortable with requiring residents to have a photo ID or driver’s license in order to be eligible for rebates, since these requirements would inherently exclude the most vulnerable populations in our city who will depend on access to these rebates most. Presumptive eligibility would protect low-income residents from being excluded from this rebate program.



Anita Bonds— At-Large Council member since 2012

In principle, I support putting a price on carbon emissions, and privatizing that cost to encourage the use of greener energy sources and to generally lower our collective energy consumption. This is important not only because it is good for the environment, but because it makes the District the kind of ethical place where people will want to live and raise a family as the Earth’s environmental crisis reaches a critical point.

Moreover, the proposal to return this tax to District residents vis periodic rebate checks would be a wonderful thing for District residents, provided that residents who use a reasonable amount of carbon-emitting energy over a period of time are able to recoup the fees they paid. This is especially important for seniors, who are less physically and financially able to radically alter their day-to-day activities to decrease their personal carbon footprints.

It is my understanding that the proposal that will come before the Council accommodates these concerns and will benefit the average District resident. As long as I and my colleagues can ensure this is the case as the legislation moves forward, then I will be in support

Marcus Goodwin— D.C Real-estate professional

The Carbon Fee Rebate proposal is a brilliant way to ensure that we are good stewards of our environment and that’s both cost effective and practical. My father has been an environmental scientist focused on our water-ways for the past 30 years. We are sufferers of a large carbon footprint because of our high proportion of out of town commuters. I would take it a step further and seek ways to tax vehicle commuters from Maryland and Virginia for their carbon impacts on our city.


Aaron Holmes— D.C social justice activist

I support market driven solutions to deal with rising environmental concerns. The proposed rebate incentivizes more sustainable options while relieving economic pressure on thousands of residents who are struggling to make ends meet.



Jeremiah Lowery– Works for food equity police, environmental justice, early childhood education and community empowerment

I support and campaigned for it. Down the road we should look-into using a percentage of the money to create a public utility system run on 100 percent clean energy. Putting a fee on the carbon is good, but we must now look to transitioning to a new system.

Introducing new campaign co-chair Kymone Freeman

Introducing new campaign co-chair Kymone Freeman

We are excited to introduce Kymone Freeman, local activist and co-owner of We Act Radio in Anacostia, DC, as the newest co-chair to join the “Put A Price On It, DC” campaign!”

We Act Radio tackles the biggest issues facing District residents—from the affordable housing crisis to homelessness and gentrification—and isn’t afraid to take local politicians to task for making empty promises. In 2017, Washington City Paper named his radio station DC’s Best Social Justice Radio. Kymone is also an award winning playwright and the founder of the Black LUV Festival. In addition, Kymone hosted environmental justice salons for our campaign during the fall. Check out photos from those empowering events here and here.

Kymone has brought prodigious talents to the DC community. He is a founding board member for the non-profit Words Beats & Life, which focuses on propelling individual lives and communities through hip-hop. He is also the co-founder of Bum Rush the Boards, which is the largest annual youth chess tournament in DC. And he one first place in “Public Radio News Directors Incorporated’s” award  for his Lion and the Map Commentary with the Anacostia Unmapped radio series on NPR. Listen to that series here:

Kymone was featured in the most controversial Ebony magazine in recent history and also on the PBS Online Film Festival for the short film “Fresh Prince of Anacostia”. Currently, he is directing his first feature film “Patriotic Treason: The Story of John Brown”. Kymone, along with a few others, has led massive non-violent protests against police brutality in the nation’s capital.

Kymone is a true activist who works everyday to make his community a better place. We are lucky to have him!

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Nicole Bera

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Nicole Bera

What is your name and what do you do?

Nicole Bera, Put a Price on it Intern

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and my parents have always been very environmentally conscious. I did not realize how serious things were until I did a research project my freshman year of highschool.

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

I think it is one of the only effective ways to combat climate change on a local level. After Trump was elected and started deconstructing our federal environmental policy, I knew that working on a smaller scale would be the only way the fight against climate change would continue in the US.

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

I have not worked on a environmental campaign before. I used to work for The Nature Conservancy which was the exact opposite of this campaign. As an intern at the nature conservancy, I would be outside doing hands on work like removing invasive species, assisting the DNR in collection species samples, and assisting on the Clean Boats, Clean Waters initiative.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

I am lucky enough to have grown up in a place away from ocean coastline that does not suffer from earthquakes or prone to wildfires. What Wisconsin is known for is the cold. Due to climate change, the winters in Wisconsin have gotten colder and the summers have gotten hotter. There is also a frequent fluctuation of temperatures and a delay in the start of constant cold weather. This disrupts agriculture all year long leading to lesser yield and higher dependence on pesticides, fertilizer, and water.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

It was great attending the 350 fossil free event. There was a variety of incredible speakers including Bernie Sanders, the mayor of New York City, and repestives of grassroots organizations from around the world.

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

Last year was my first year in D.C. Due to the presidential election it was quite an interesting year to be here to say the least. I was a part of the incredible Women’s March on Washington in January and multiple protests after the inauguration. While Trump is still in office, I think the women’s march showed the country and the president that we stand against him.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

I am excited to see what I accomplish here at the campaign in the next few months!

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:


Who is your inspiration?

Eleanor Roosevelt!