Mercer Island City Council, 2018. Courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

Mercer Island City Council, 2018. Courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

Mercer Island City Council votes to endorse I-631

The initiative would enact a carbon emissions fee on large emitters.

At its Sept. 17 meeting, the Mercer Island City Council voted in support of State Initiative Measure No. I-1631, which would enact a carbon emissions fee on the state’s largest greenhouse gas emitters if passed by the voters in the November 2018 General Election.

The council voted unanimously, 6-0 (with council member Dave Wisenteiner absent), to endorse the measure after receiving testimony on both sides of the issue via a formal public hearing.

The initiative would enact a carbon emissions fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon beginning on Jan. 1, 2020; increase the fee by $2 annually until the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals are met; and use the revenue from the fee to fund various programs and projects related to the environment.

The council members in attendance spoke on their position and motivations, citing concerns over the impacts of climate change and a warming planet.

Council member Bruce Bassett said he feels climate change is the “paramount issue of our generation,” and that though the Mercer Island community and its partners in King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C) are making progress, it is “absolutely essential” that a price be put on carbon pollution. Council member Benson Wong said that though it is not local problem, the council was weighing in because “we’ve waited too long to take any action.”

Council member Wendy Weiker said the government has to work with businesses and nonprofits to help both the environment and workers as technology changes, and supports the initiative because “we know climate change is real — we know the science is clear.”

“We see the forest fires happening this past summer and previous summers as a shockingly immediate impact that’s occurring, but we see glaciers disappearing, we see ocean acidification, and we see the steadily rising global temperatures all as indicators that there’s no doubt that this is a moment when we need to act. It’s really a moment decades after we needed to act,” Bassett said.

Council member Tom Acker said the effects of climate change have been felt locally, with the poor air quality caused by wildfires in August and environmental factors leading to the death and disease of orcas in the Puget Sound. He said he felt it was an “important symbolic vote.”

Speakers in support of I-1631 included Brian Emmanuels, who represented Mercer Island Ready for 100, a group working toward 100 percent renewable electricity in the city by 2035, and Rev. Dr. Marilyn Cornwell, a Mercer Island resident and the vice president of the board of Earth Ministry, which engages the faith community in environmental stewardship and advocacy.

Randy Pepple, a spokesperson for the Vote No on 1631 campaign, noted some concerns with the initiative, including an alleged lack of accountability, tax increases for small businesses and families, and the fact that it contains exemptions for eight of the state’s 12 largest polluters.

Deputy Mayor Salim Nice said that when “we look at what we can and are doing, it’s not enough,” and that he feels he has to answer to future generations.

Some council members expressed concerns that this is being done through the initiative process, but noted that the state and especially federal government has not done enough to protect the environment.

“There’s rarely an initiative that I’ve ever seen that is perfect… but this is a major and effective step forward,” said Mayor Debbie Bertlin.

Before the public hearing, Bertlin noted that the agenda item was one of the limited exceptions to the rule that prevents the use of city facilities for campaigning.

“State statute prohibits the use of public facilities for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot measure except in limited instances,” according to a city press release. “RCW 42.17.130 allows the council to express a collective position or vote to support or oppose a ballot proposition if (a) any required notice of the meeting includes the title and number of the ballot proposition; and (b) the members of the legislative body or members of the public are afforded an approximately equal opportunity for the expression of an opposing view.”

See www.mercergov.org for more.

[flipp]

More in News

Nite Wave plays at the Showbox Dec. 20 Paul Twibell Photography
Nite Wave debuts at Bellevue Meydenbauer Center Theatre Feb. 28.

Now in their ninth year, Nite Wave will debut at a new Eastside venue and play with ’80s icon Tiffany.

Sarah Abdullah is a pharmacist who left Iraq as a refugee. She joined the Welcome Back Center at Highline College and is now only two tests away from gaining Washington state certification to practice her trade. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Recredentialed: Barriers face Washington’s immigrant, refugee professionals

Even with degrees from abroad, it can be difficult for many to get certified in the state.

If passed, Senate Bill 6254 would limit the nicotine concentration of vape products, ban certain flavoring chemicals and require vape manufacturers, distributors and retailers to obtain licenses from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. File photo
Lawmakers propose sweeping regulations for vaping industry

Bill supporters cite concerns over health issues and teen use.

A screenshot of Mercer Island’s new Winter Storm Ready webpage on its Let’s Talk Mercer Island website.
New Mercer Island city webpage houses storm info

Emergency alerts, updates, links.

Alan Roach and his dog, Roxie, reunited in their new apartment. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
Al’s new apartment, a community effort

Mercer Islanders give housewares, furniture to formerly homeless man and his dog.

Courtesy photo
                                Elliot Newman (left) receives his MIYFS Family Inspirational Award from Mayor Wong on Jan. 7.
Elliot Newman receives 2019 Flash Family Inspirational Award

It was standing room only at the Jan. 7 city council meeting when Newman received his award.

A proposal by Senate Democrats would require concealed pistol license applicants in Washington state to complete a safety course. File photo
Democrats seek firearm training requirement for concealed carriers

Republican senator calls proposal ‘unconstitutional.’

Snohomish County man is first U.S. case of new coronavirus

A man in his 30s was hospitalized in Everett after contracting the virus during a trip to China.

Matt Marshall, leader of the Washington Three Percenters gun rights group, addresses a crowd rallying for Second Amendment rights Jan. 17 at the state Capitol in Olympia. Marshall condemned Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, which expelled Rep. Matt Shea from the Republican Caucus. Marshall announced his candidacy for the 2nd District seat held by House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox. Photo by Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service
Gun rights advocates rally at Capitol

Criticism levied at Matt Shea investigation, Republican leadership.

Most Read