The campaign manager for Initiative 1631 joins The Overcast politics podcast to discuss criticisms of the $1 billion carbon fee measure.

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Washington voters in November will decide whether to approve Initiative 1631, a measure pushed by a big coalition of environmentalists, labor unions, Northwest Indian tribes and others.

The proposal has drawn in major oil companies that own refineries in the state – they’ve dropped $20 million to defeat the measure. Supporters have raised $6 million.

The outcome will decide whether Washington joins California and British Columbia in putting a price on carbon emissions linked to global warming. I-1631 would raise an estimated $1 billion a year for the state to spend on clean-energy projects, forest restoration and other goals. Estimates say it would raise the cost of gasoline by 14 cents a gallon.

On Episode 91 of The Overcast, I-1631 campaign manager Abigail Doerr discusses the case for the measure – which, if passed, would be the first of its kind to be adopted by voters in the U.S.

I-1631’s carbon fee would hit refineries, gas distributors and other large emitters of greenhouse gases, with a goal of meeting emission-reduction targets passed by the Legislature in 2008.

“We are not on track to meeting those goals,” says Doerr, who blames lobbying by “big oil companies” – a theme she returns to again and again in the conversation.

It’s not only big oil opposing the initiative. This week, the union representing 9,000 ironworkers came out against it, saying they fear job losses if I-1631 passes. Doerr says I-1631, which is supported by other major labor groups, would provide job retraining and other benefits to workers displaced by a shift toward a cleaner energy economy.

“We know that this transition is not going to be easy,” she says in the podcast, recorded at the Seattle studios of public radio 88.5 FM KNKX as part of an ongoing partnership.

Seattle Times political reporter Jim Brunner queries Doerr about other common criticisms and issues surrounding I-1631, including:

  • How would the money raised by the initiative be spent, and who would get to control the funds?
  • Is this a regressive tax that would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher gasoline and utility costs?
  • Does it make sense for Washington state to plow ahead fighting climate change in the absence of a national policy?
  • How can supporters overcome the $20 million in spending by big oil companies in opposition to this initiative?

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