Hats off to the Montgomery County Council in Maryland for passing the nation’s first carbon tax. Here is a copy of the legislation. Below is a summary of the hearing by Clean Currents, a local clean energy business. CCAN also has an official statement on this legislation. Also, here is CCAN’s press release on the passage, which I’ve posted below the Clean Currents Statement.
Its official: today, the Montgomery County Council passed a carbon tax bill- the first of its kind in the United States! The bill, proposed by County Councilman Roger Berliner, taxes stationary emitters in Montgomery County that release more than one million tons of co2 into the atmosphere annually. Currently, there is only one such emitter- a coal plant owned by Mirant Corporation. At a hearing yesterday, Mirant Corporation officials spoke against the legislation claiming it would only lead to rate hikes for consumers. However, Councilman Berliner said the $5/ton tax would not have an impact on ratepayers for numerous reasons. This amount is marginal compared to the profits Mirant makes from the facility. The tax revenues will go to funding clean energy and other programs that are facing funding cuts during tough budgetary conditions.
Amanda Duzak and Gary Skulnik, Clean Currents resident activists were at yesterday’s hearing supporting the bill and the testimonies of CCAN’s Mike Tidwell and other advocates. Also present at the hearing were a rowdy group of tea party protestors in support of Mirant. These protestors denied climate change was happening. However, when asked about Mirant’s stance on climate change, the Mirant representative could not deny it, creating a real rhetorical problem for the tea party protestors.
DC-Area County Passes Carbon Tax on Coal Plant in Absence of Federal Carbon Cap
TAKOMA PARK, MD (5/19/10)—A Maryland county bordering Washington, D.C., today passed a $15 million “carbon tax” designed to show that other counties and cities can – and should – move forward against coal in the wake of federal gridlock on global warming.
The Montgomery County Council voted 8-1 today to adopt the carbon tax. In a county of nearly one million people the tax will apply to only one entity: the 850 megawatt coal-fired power plant owned by Mirant Corporation just 40 miles from the U.S. Capitol. At least half of the money will be used to fund county energy efficiency programs. The local utility, Pepco, has said the bill will have no discernible effect on ratepayers. Mirant had spent the past two years lobbying against any kind of strong federal carbon cap.
“With this heroic vote in the D.C. suburbs today, the coal lobby might want to prepare for local actions across the country,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which supported the bill. “Local power-plant taxes are legal and now necessary given the success of the coal industry in watering down and delaying real action on coal pollution in Congress.”
Mirant lobbied ferociously against the Montgomery County bill, obviously treating it as a national test case. The company brought in the Electric Power Supply Association to pressure the County Council. It also funded a broad direct-mail campaign, a telephone polling campaign, and a massive astroturf email effort in the county.
“While all of us here would prefer for there to be strong regional or federal standards, the truth is we don’t today,” said Councilmember Roger Berliner, chief sponsor of the bill. “And it is also true that local governments often take the lead on these issues, and as a result of those initiatives, there is a greater push for federal legislation. That would be a good outcome. But until then, we have the authority and we must use that authority on behalf of our taxpayers and the health and well-being of our residents.”
At-Large Councilmembers George Leventhal and Marc Elrich also led the fight for the county carbon tax
Cross-posted from: here