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:


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:


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.

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.

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, jamie@citizensclimatelobby.org, 443-845-5601
Denise Robbins, CCAN Action Fund, Communications Director, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 608-620-8819
Camila Thorndike, CCAN Action Fund, Carbon Pricing Director, camila@chesapeakeclimate.org, 541-951-2619


Councilmember Cheh has proposed a carbon price — here’s what you need to know

Councilmember Cheh has proposed a carbon price — here’s what you need to know

By Courtney Dyson

We just achieved a key milestone in the carbon price campaign. On May 18th Councilmember Mary Cheh finally presented a draft proposal for a carbon price in DC!

The proposal comes on the heels of the DC Council introducing a bill requiring 100% of the District’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2050. Councilmember Cheh’s proposal brings us one step closer to enacting a strong and fair carbon fee-and-rebate policy, and we are grateful for her leadership.

However, it must be strengthened before being introduced and passed into law.

The proposal is still in draft form, so specific allocations of the revenue raised in this proposal will undoubtedly change. At this time, we are focusing on the effectiveness of the proposal in terms of reducing fossil fuel emissions. The Councilmember’s current draft cuts in half the most important numbers: the level of the carbon price itself, the economy-wide coverage, and the emission reductions that follow.

The Carbon Price

With a fee starting at only $10 per ton of carbon dioxide, Councilmember Cheh’s proposal falls along the lines of many others being implemented around the globe. And akin to those, it is not enough.

The recommended carbon price to meet the high end of the Paris Agreement (2.5 degree Celsius warming) is $230 per ton of CO2 in 2020. A higher carbon price is cited as being needed to hasten the transition to clean renewable energy sources and to improve energy efficiency. Our proposal calls for a fee that begins at $20 per ton and increases $10 per year, to eventually reach $150 per ton by 2032.

Economy-wide Coverage

One of the leading differences between the two proposals is that Councilmember Cheh’s would only place a carbon fee on oil and gas combustion. It completely omits the electricity sector from paying a fee.

Fossil fuels are a main source of energy for electricity generation in the district. In order to ensure a swift transition to clean energy across the economy, it would be more effective to apply a carbon price across all sectors, rather than segmenting them with different policies like an RPS. Under the coalition proposal, the electricity sector would decarbonize decades faster than under Councilmember Cheh’s.

Emission Reductions

DC has the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2032, and the coalition proposal would put us on track to achieve those goals.

However, Councilmember Cheh’s proposal cuts the carbon price in half and lessens its scope, inevitably diminishing emission reductions.

The Put A Price On It DC proposal reduces CO2 emissions from natural gas and oil by 5.75 million tons by 2032 (not including the emissions reductions from electricity), whereas Councilmember Cheh’s proposal only reduces it by 2.65 million tons by 2038.

We cannot afford to let that mass of greenhouse gas emissions escape into our atmosphere. We are on the brink and every ton of CO2 emitted into our atmosphere counts.

*Emission reductions from heating fuels only

What does this mean for our campaign

We’re going to work closely with Councilmember Cheh to mold this proposal into an equitable carbon pricing policy that catalyzes reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, encourages innovation and clean renewable energy, and is fair to all DC residents.

There are still many factors of this proposal to be determined and we must keep up the pressure to ensure a rebate to ratepayers, the details of which are still to be determined by a commission.

On June 5th we will be having a press conference to urge our councilmembers to continue making progress on a fair and equitable carbon price and to push for the bill to be introduced.

In the meantime, you can send a message to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson expressing your support for a strong and fair carbon price today.

Read on for more details comparing our proposal with Councilmember Cheh’s proposal.


Feature Councilmember Cheh’s Proposal Coalition Proposal
Fee Rate Taxes carbon at a rate of $10 per ton starting in FY2020

Price of carbon increases $5 per year per ton of CO2

Price of carbon capped at $100 per ton in 2038

Taxes carbon at a rate of $20 per ton starting in FY2019

Price of carbon increases $10 per year per ton of CO2

Price of carbon capped at $150 per ton in 2032

Electricity Sector 100% RPS by 2050, plus long-term Renewable Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for Standard Offer Service

  • Per the Clean Energy DC plan, this would require the electric utility to procure 70% of the Standard Offer Service via long-term renewable PPAs, phased in over three years based on the percentage of supply contracts that are up each year. The RECs accompanying the renewable energy would also be purchased and used for compliance with the RPS.

Per the CleanEnergy DC plan, limit the area from which RECs may be purchased for compliance with the RPS to the PJM

Fee applies to electricity at same rate as other sectors, which increases efficiencies.

See analysis below on necessary amendments to any proposed 100% RPS.

Gasoline & Diesel Carbon fee would be implemented when one adjacent state adopted a similar fee Same
Transportation -Vehicle excise tax tied to emissions standards, exemption for used cars 7 or more years old

-Additional fee on parking

Green Finance Fund The first $30 million raised would go to the Green Finance Authority, after that the Green Bank would receive $10 million per year for 4 years 20% of the revenue is directed to greenhouse gas reduction programs, with a focus on energy efficiency and supporting greener buildings, as well as the installation or retrofit of HVAC and other large building systems.
Resident Rebates $X million per year for low-to-moderate income residential carbon fee offset, the details of which would be decided by a commission appointed by the Mayor and the Council in accordance with guiding principles established by the bill, to include:

  • Holding the lowest-income residents harmless for the tax;
  • Eliminating any potential displacement effect that it could have;
  • Minimizing administrative costs of the program.
75% of revenue rebated to all residents, with an enhanced rebate for residents below 200% the federal poverty level.

See below for principles to which a commission must adhere.

We are concerned that Cheh’s currently proposed $10/ton starting price with $30M allocated for the Green Bank would leave zero revenue for any other purpose, including the rebate.

Business Rebates $X million per year to the SEU and/or Green Finance Authority for programs assisting master-metered multi-family building owners with energy efficiency retrofits

$X million per year for a tax deduction for energy efficiency retrofits in commercial buildings

Under the Coalition proposal, 5% of the revenue is directed toward operating-cost relief for small businesses.

The Coalition asks that CM Cheh’s proposal specify that funds appropriated to the Green Finance Authority and/or SEU, master-metered units, and commercial tax credits can be used for both energy efficiency AND for investments in building electrification (switching from gas/oil to electric space/water heating and cooking).

The proposal should also specify where money goes from either parking fees or a fee on motor fuels if a neighboring jurisdiction acts.

Further analysis from the coalition:

On Necessary Amendments to the RPS 

We applaud Councilmember Cheh’s proposal to restrict the catchment area for qualifying RECs under the RPS to the PJM alone, as well as her proposal to require 70% of the SOS be procured by long-term renewable PPAs. However, the Coalition proposal seeks far larger reductions from a comprehensive carbon price on electricity.

In short, a 100% by 2050 RPS policy will not help the District achieve its 2032 climate and energy goals. This approach leaves 80% of electricity unaffected now, and does not strengthen our existing efforts to decarbonize as mandated by the 50% by 2032 RPS. If the Council is intent on reducing electricity emissions via a new RPS, the target date must be significantly sooner.

The design of the current 50% by 2032 RPS presents another opportunity for increased emission reductions. There need be no three-year pause beginning in 2020, when clean energy will comprise 20% of the electricity mix. Instead, the RPS could reach 30% by 2023 and exceed 50% by 2032.

Proposed Rebate Commission Must Adhere to Specific Principles

In order to better detail the specifics of residential energy use compensation, the Coalition is supportive of a bill that would allocate 75% of revenue to residential rebates, and appoint a commission specifically to determine the technical aspects of its distribution. (The current revenue allocation to the Green Bank in initial years is out of proportion and should be adjusted).

The commission should include members representing environmental and environmental justice organizations; low-income advocacy organizations; unions; the Office of the People’s Counsel; applicable agencies; and other members with relevant expertise. The commission should report back to the Council within six months of beginning work, but at the very latest no longer than twelve months after beginning work.

The bill language must require the commission to adhere to the following principles:

  1. The economic outcome must be progressive for the majority of DC households. Households who contribute least to the climate crisis — specifically low-and middle-income households — should not pay more in a carbon fee than they receive in compensation.
  2. The price signal and the revenue must be decoupled. In other words, no one should receive revenue back at the same time that they pay the carbon fee (e.g. on-bill).
  3. The price path should be unchanged from our original proposal of $20/ton in year one, increasing $10 every year to a cap of $150/ton.

The Coalition continues to believe that rebating 75% of the money to District residents in the form of monthly checks or deposits is the best use of the funds. If needed, however, we are open to a diverse commission of experts determining the specific allocation of these funds, as long as the solution is timely and adheres to the principles described above.

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Michael Riley Place

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Michael Riley Place

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. Michael Riley Price is a student fellow working on the campaign. Here’s his story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Michael Riley Place and I am a graduating senior at St. John’s High School in DC. I am an Our Climate Fellow working on the campaign as part of the steering committee. 

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

When I was 13, my family moved to New Zealand. Although I have been passionate about the environment my entire life and had learned about climate change, the implications a changing climate has on our Earth never really struck me until I was standing in a ravine carved out by the Fox Glacier. While the glacier still exists, century old images showed it to be significantly larger, stretching through the entire ravine. I realized then, that in only one hundred years, a relative blink of an eye, human society changed the world so much.

Besides the melting of glaciers, there has been intense melting of the ice caps, bleaching of coral reefs, and desertification of rain forests, all because of climate change. The government of New Zealand has always been a leader on environmental issues, recently ratifying the Paris climate agreement and banning offshore drilling. I have come to realize that while the United States has endangered ecosystems just like New Zealand, it has not taken the same action to ensure these places are preserved.

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

The tricky thing about climate change is that no matter where someone lives, their carbon footprint affects the entire world community. As climate change is the product of billions of people emitting carbon in their daily lives, a few individual decisions to bike to work or switch light bulbs is not going to make a significant difference. Entire communities must come together to move towards sustainability, by ensuring that people pay for their pollution. I believe that putting a price on carbon would not only discourage carbon pollution in the district and allow Washingtonians to reduce climate change as a united community, but by being passed in the nation’s capital it would set a national precedent for more cities to follow. Also, the rebate would ensure that communities unable to pay for the increased heating and transportation costs are not stifled by them financially.

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

This is the first campaign, environmental or otherwise, that I have played a role in. I love the positive energy of the people involved with the campaign. Although everyone has been working for a long time to ensure that climate change is addressed, and lately it seems our government is taking a step back in environmental progress, everyone still has hope. Hope that if we keep working towards a sustainable future, we will get there.

The steering committee is also made up of a very diverse group, with members hailing from government, businesses, faith-organizations, nonprofits, or grassroots backgrounds. I have learned a lot about the different perspectives that go into forming a successful campaign.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

The effects of climate change are so numerous and far-reaching that it plagues various communities differently. The United States has been experiencing increasingly hotter temperatures and irregular weather patterns. While many of us have the power to manipulate temperatures using air conditioning, there are many Americans who cannot afford this luxury, and billions around the globe who do not have access to it, these people are forced to deal with these rising temperatures. Irregular weather patterns are not only an inconvenience, those who lie in the path of storms face complete devastation. Additionally, many species are adapted to certain climate patterns, causing them to experience the changes intensely.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

My favorite moment was participating in the lobby day in March. This was my first experience lobbying and I found it extraordinary to see elected officials speak directly with their constituents about the changes they want to see in their community. Council members Robert White and Stephen Grosso showed their support for the policy and this was really cool.

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

I witness community power every meeting of the steering community. The diversity of groups represented in the committee is amazing. Student groups, clean power businesses, environmental networking groups, a youth run political action committee, faith organizations, grassroots community groups, and even the Citizens Climate Lobby come together to plan the next steps. This ensures the policy is addressed from all angles. Furthermore, volunteers from the campaign have promoted the policy everywhere from ANC meetings to church events, bringing news of the policy directly to the community. This collaboration was apparent during the youth lobby day, where many people turned out for meetings with representatives and a rally in front of the Wilson Building. It was extraordinary to see so many different people united around one vision.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

There have been so many great moments of this campaign, and with the introduction of the bill just around the corner, I know the best moments are yet to come. One of my biggest personal accomplishments of the campaign was writing a speech about why “the bill is late” and delivering the speech at the rally preceding the youth lobby day. As a high school student, it is my generation that will witness the worst parts of climate change, yet we lack the vote and attention of policy makers, I feel as if this is lost on our government. It was extraordinary to give my perspective and then meet with the policy makers directly, giving me hope that in time our leaders will come to realize the importance of protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:


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

A Parrot. This parrot would be fluent in several languages and help me to translate, it would spy on people, deliver food to my house, and be able to have deep and philosophical conversations.

Our greatest tool: Why we need a carbon price to meet the Paris Agreement

Our greatest tool: Why we need a carbon price to meet the Paris Agreement

By Courtney Dyson

In economist’s James K. Boyce’s mind, we are currently facing a tragedy of the commons on the global scale. We have reaped the benefits of fossil fuels over the past centuries without paying for the consequences. The greatest being global warming.

What is Boyce’s solution to this dilemma?

A carbon price. In a recent study called Carbon Pricing: Effectiveness and Equity, Boyce makes the case for a carbon cap-and-dividend. A system which would assign property rights to the “limited capacity of the atmosphere to absorb CO2” and develop a sense of “co-ownership of the gifts of nature”.

The study, published in April by the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts Amherst, states numerous times that any carbon pricing mechanisms must be driven by emission targets, the capping of emissions, in order to drive them down, and for any prospect of meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement – keeping global warming below 1.5 – 2 ℃.

However, there are several things to keep in mind in order to ensure that such a policy is both effective and fair.

What should the price be?

Global carbon pricing mechanisms today cover about 20% of fossil fuel emissions. However, they were found to be falling short of their goals due to the prices being too low. Incredibly, after taking into consideration the subsidizing of fossil fuels, the average net carbon price in the world today is minus $8.

This is partly due to that three-fourths of global carbon prices are set below $10 per metric ton of CO2. These prices are well below the recommended level. According to a study (Nordhaus), cited by Boyce, the price required to stay below 2.5 °C warming starts at roughly $230 per metric ton of CO2 in 2020, increasing over time.

This makes the DC price of $20 per metric ton with increases of $10 per ton every year with a cap at $150 in 2032 seem modest. However, our carbon price will be occurring in conjunction with improvements in energy efficiency and an increased renewable energy portfolio. These simultaneous actions assist in bringing down the necessary carbon price.

How do you ensure it is fair?

One concern of increasing pricing to the necessary level to invoke timely change is the impact that will trickle down to ratepayers. This effect was referred to in the study as the “cost pass-through”. Boyce states that this pass-through is “a predictable and desirable feature of carbon pricing” because it signals users to reduce their carbon footprints. The lower your footprint, the less you pay.

Yet, it is important to have complementary mechanisms in place to ensure that ratepayers are not stuck footing the bulk of the bill, instead leaving it to fossil fuel companies – the polluters. Boyce states that this can be achieved by:

substantial share of the carbon rent is rebated to the public as equal per-person dividends, the net impact of the carbon pricing policy turns progressive.

This method and theory will, hopefully soon be put into practice through the Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of D.C. The proposed policy would reinvest a large portion of the revenue raised back to D.C. residents, with portions also allocated into energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and tax cuts for small businesses.

What makes the rebate fair?

It is important that a carbon fee-and-rebate takes into account that every household does not have the same carbon footprint. This is a factor which must be adjusted for when establishing the rebate mechanism. Simply put – those who consume more pay more, and those who consume less pay less. Sound familiar?

One of the best mechanisms we have to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement is carbon pricing. Methods like those studied by Boyce and put into practice by legislation such as the Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of D.C. are tools which are effective in reducing carbon emissions quickly, encouraging innovation and new technologies, and most importantly, done in a manner that is just.

Read the full study below:



Courtney Dyson is a Communications Fellow at Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Image at top by Flickr user Hsing Wei, Crowded, 2009.