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Carbon fee initiative gains signatures — and opposition

Backers of a proposed carbon fee in Washington state say they’ve gathered 36,000 signatures and are on track to put their measure on the November ballot.

Initiative 1631 is sponsored by a coalition of tribes and environmental and labor groups called the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. Field director Ahmed Gaya said labor unions and environmentalists were divided over building new fossil fuel projects on the Washington coast. But they’ve come together in support of the ballot measure.

“One of the reasons we’re seeing such excitement and hunger around this initiative is that people in the environmental community have spent so much time saying no to the projects they don’t want," Gaya said. "This is one of the first opportunities we have to say yes.”

Revenue from the fee would be used to fund alternative energy and environmental projects. Gaya said about a third would also go to help low-income people address pollution and higher energy costs.

“That could mean bill assistance with their utilities," Gaya said. "That could mean programs that provide them support in their transportation opportunities or fuel, and that’s really going to be dependent, based on the geographic area they’re in, on what the needs are.”

Oil companies are leading the opposition to the initiative. They’ve pledged $250,000 to the “No on 1631” campaign. A spokesman said they will bring together a “robust statewide coalition” to talk about the downsides of the fee.

Year started with KUOW: 2005