The Douglas County Board is considering a resolution to urge the U.S. Congress to adopt a tax to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
Douglas County's Land Conservation Committee is recommending the Board adopt a resolution urging Congress to adopt H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019.
The bill would impose a fee on the carbon content of fuels including crude oil, natural gas, coal or any other product derived from those fuels that would emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The fee imposed on producers and importers would be based on the amount of carbon dioxide that would be generated. The initial fee of $15 per ton of carbon dioxide would grown by $10 per ton per year.
Exemptions would be made for fuels used for agriculture or non-emitting purposes, and fuels used by U.S. Armed Forces. Rebates would be available for facilities that capture and sequester emissions, and border adjustment provisions that require certain fees or refunds for carbon-intensive products that are exported or imported.
The revenue generated from the fees would be deposited into Carbon Dividend Trust Fund to pay for administrative expenses and pay dividends to U.S. Citizens. The fees must be decommissioned when emission levels and monthly dividend payments fall below specific levels.
The bill was introduced in January by U.S. Rep. Theodore Deutch, D-Fla., and has been referred to Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Foreign Affairs committees of the House of Representatives.
Supervisor Keith Allen called the bill "malarkey" and a slap in the face to industries in Superior. Even before the Land Conservation Committee met Tuesday, May 21, Allen urged members of the committee to vote down the measure.
"I will not and cannot support this resolution ... it's crazy," Allen said in an email to committee members. He said it doesn't make sense for the government to tax industry, which drives up the cost of goods, and then have government pay a dividend to consumers to make up for the higher costs.
"I don't agree with the bill," said Larry Luostari, a citizen member of the Land Conservation Committee. He said it's going to cost the U.S. Treasury a lot of money to distribute the money and the bill should be fine-tuned. Still, he said something has to be done for the children, and he voted in favor of the resolution.
"What are the costs of doing nothing?" committee member Kay McKenzie asked after a presentation on the bill by Ted Griggs and Bill Bussey of the Citizens Climate Lobby Chequamegon. "Do we live for today or do we do something for the future?"
Griggs shared with the committee recent weather throughout the region events dating back to 2012 that have caused millions of dollars in damage - 100- and 500-year storms that have become more commonplace in less than a decade. And it's not Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties alone that are feeling the effects of a changing climate.
"We have to try to do something to slow this down," Griggs said. "It's the frequency and severity of these things."
Griggs said the bill is an "indispensable step" in addressing climate change.
"It's really time," Bussey said. "If we're going to address this and we believe that information, we're going to have our carbon emissions in half by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050."
Carbon emissions in the atmosphere redirect heat from the sun in all directions that would normally be reflected back into space, according to the National Aeronautic Space Agency's Global Climate Change website.
"We really need some major action here," said Bussey, who is planning to address local government officials throughout the 7th Congressional District.
Land Conservation chairwoman Sue Hendrickson said the carbon tax is akin to the implementation of recycling.
"No one wanted to do it," Hendrickson said. "It was annoying. We have to wash cans out. I've got to separate stuff. But how do you feel about it now? It was the right thing to do. It's still the right thing to do."
The measure still requires County Board approval. The board considers the resolution June 20.
Allen wasn't happy to learn the committee had passed the resolution. He said education, not taxation, is the solution.
"The way I read it, they're going to tax ... so we pay more for our products, and then they're going to reimburse us, refund this tax," Allen said. "I would love to pay $3 for an extra gallon of gas, and they're going to give us $3 or $2.5 - I don't think that's ever going to happen ... I just don't believe it."