Washington State vs. Washington’s Hate

I guess these lives should just be considered collateral damage in Donald Trump’s battle to defend coal:

The Trump administration has hailed its overhaul of federal pollution restrictions on coal-burning power plants as creating new jobs, eliminating burdensome government regulations and ending what President Trump has long described as a “war on coal.”

The administration’s own analysis, however, revealed on Tuesday that the new rules could also lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 from an increase in the extremely fine particulate matter that is linked to heart and lung disease, up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days.

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which crafted the regulation, said that other rules governing pollution could be used to reduce those numbers…

Andrew R. Wheeler, the E.P.A.’s acting administrator, said on Tuesday: “We are proposing a better plan. It respects the rule of law and will enable states to build affordable, clean, reliable energy portfolios.”

The administration’s proposal lays out several possible pathways that individual states might use for regulating coal-fired power plants, and what the consequences would be for pollution and human health in each case. In the scenario the E.P.A. has pegged as the most likely to occur, the health effects would be significant.

It is in that scenario where the E.P.A. estimates its plan will see between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 because of increased rates of microscopic airborne particulates known as PM 2.5, which are dangerous because of their link to heart and lung disease as well as their ability to trigger chronic problems like asthma and bronchitis.

Don’t you just love “pro-life” Republicans?

Trump’s “Mean Power Plan” should inspire outrage from every parent and grandparent in this country—but of course, we know that won’t be the case; after all, Republican climate-change deniers, at bottom, hate Al Gore more than they love their own grandchildren. Large segments of this country have been thoroughly convinced that human-caused climate change is just a big ‘ol hoax; their rejection of reality is a national (and international) disgrace.

However, there is a chance that some enlightened states may lead on climate, even as the federal government falters. On November 6, voters in Washington state will have a unique opportunity to fulfill the moral mission to reduce emissions—but will they take advantage of that opportunity?

This November, voters in Washington State may do what no group of people—in or outside the United States—has done before.

They will vote on whether to adopt a carbon fee, an aggressive policy to combat climate change that charges polluters for the right to emit carbon dioxide and other potent greenhouse gases.

Their decision will reverberate far beyond the Olympic Peninsula. If the measure passes, Washington will make history, becoming not only the first state in the union to adopt a type of policy called a carbon tax—but also the first government anywhere to do so by ballot referendum.

If it fails, it will bring into question whether progressives can implement substantive, state-level climate policy in the face of President Donald Trump’s environmental rollbacks, even in deep-blue redoubts like Washington…

Initiative 1631 attempts to take the colossal costs of climate change—its hotter days, higher seas, and angrier weather—and calculate them into the price of fossil fuels. It requires major polluters like fossil-fuel companies to pay $15 for every ton of carbon dioxide they release into the atmosphere. The state estimates that this levy would generate roughly $2.2 billion in its first five years.

Initiative 1631 would then invest this windfall into a new fund to support projects that would accelerate the state’s transition away from fossil fuels, like public-transit development, energy-efficiency upgrades, and new wind- and solar-power plants.

If Initiative 1631 passes, it could well inspire other blue states to implement their own carbon-tax policies (yes, several blue states are already involved in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but there’s a strong argument for the RGGI states–who use cap-and-trade to limit emissions from power plants–to implement carbon taxes to reduce emissions from transportation). Even in blue states, there will be a fight to implement policies modeled on Initiative 1631. It will be a fight for the lives of future generations. Will this generation show the necessary resolve in that fight?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.