As thousands of Washingtonians gear up to travel by car for the holidays, a group that blames the state’s climate law for high gas prices has submitted what they reported were thousands of signatures to repeal state climate legislation.
A small crowd of people gathered Tuesday afternoon outside the office of the Washington Secretary of State in Tumwater and stacked printer paper boxes onto metal carts that they wheeled inside. The boxes held signatures reportedly supporting a ballot initiative that would repeal Washington’s Climate Commitment Act.
To make it onto the 2024 election ballot, Initiative 2117 would need 324,516 signatures confirmed by the secretary of state. Political committee Let’s Go Washington reported it dropped off upwards of 400,000 signatures to the state agency Tuesday.
For months, the climate act has sparked heated debates between policy critics who blame high gas prices on the legislation and policy supporters who say big oil companies and a complicated economy are to blame for the uptick in prices.
The effort to do away with state climate legislation is one of six initiatives backed by Let’s Go Washington to repeal laws passed by the Democrat-led state Legislature. Brian Heywood, a business owner from Redmond, Washington, has bankrolled the initiatives, spending more than $5 million trying to get them on the November 2024 ballot.
Heywood spoke at Tuesday’s event, standing in front of a line of supporters holding signs that read “STOP THE HIDDEN GAS TAX” and “FIX WHAT’S BROKEN!”
“Every day, commuter Washingtonians just are getting penalized by this hidden tax,” he said. “… And the thing about this tax is, it’s not just a commuter tax – everyone’s felt it.”
A handful of people who support the climate act also showed up to Tuesday’s event and held signs. One read, “POLLUTERS WIN YOU LOSE,” and on another a graph showed steeply climbing profit margins by the oil industry in the past two years.
Kimberly Larson, communications director for Climate Solutions, said she opposed the ballot initiative because big oil controls gas prices, not the state.
“We have one of the highest profit margins in the country,” Larson said. “The oil industry could change that, but they’re choosing not to. They’re choosing to pass the cost onto consumers. They don’t have to, but they do. No one’s focused on that in this conversation.”
Washington’s carbon credit auction has raised $1.5 billion since the first one was held in February. That money has largely come from oil and energy companies and other big emitters of greenhouse gases in the state that need the credits to help meet their carbon emission limits.
Supporters of the climate act argue the billions of dollars raised will go directly back to residents and their communities, through subsidizing sustainable energy infrastructure and public transportation. Money from the carbon credits is also allocated to the working family’s tax credit, a state program designed to mitigate the impact of higher fuel prices by giving up to $1,200 in tax credits back to qualifying families and individuals.
Those who oppose the climate law argue that Gov. Jay Inslee and the climate act are to blame for higher gas prices. State Republican Party Chairman Jim Walsh attended Tuesday’s event in support of the repeal initiative.
“Do we chase industrial economic activity out of our state where it’s carefully regulated and into places where it’s not regulated at all?” Walsh said in an interview after the event.
Supporters of the other five Let’s Go Washington initiatives must solicit all remaining signatures and deliver them to the Washington Secretary of State’s office by Dec. 29.
From there, the state Legislature will have the option to vote any of the finalized initiatives into state law. If this doesn’t happen, voters can expect to see any finalized initiatives on the 2024 ballot.