Denver City Council To Consider Carbon Tax In August
The newly-minted progressive Denver City Council is moving forward with a new carbon tax, despite hesitation from the mayor and leading business groups in the city. The effort builds on state efforts to impose climate fees on users of Uber and Lyft.
A city council committee voted Tuesday to advance a carbon tax proposal and set up a government office to address climate change. The Finance and Governance Committee voted 4-3 in favor of the carbon tax and 6-0 for the climate change office to send both measures to the full City Council, according to ABC 7.
The carbon tax specifically targets businesses by placing a tax of 0.6 cents per kilowatt of electricity and a tax of 7 cents per therm of natural gas that would apply to commercial and industrial buildings.
The push is being led by city council president Jolon Clark, reports Westword, who also noted the legislation is similar to a ill-fated proposal from Resilient Denver, an environmental activist group, that failed to gather enough signatures to put the initiative on the ballot in 2019.
Clark also noted that Denver is attempting to hit the goals the Paris Climate Agreement – an international agreement that President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States.
Council members Candi CdeBaca and Amanda Sawyer are also supporters. Both we’re elected this year with the help of Emerge Colorado, the local chapter of Emerge America, which is funded by anti-fossil fuel organizations.
Last week, Western Wire covered a city council meeting taken over by environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion advocating for a ban on oil and natural gas production. CdeBaca posed for photos with the group and recorded a video message backing the group’s protest by saying, “I respect, I support it, and I would love to help you guys.”
CdeBaca is also a self-described “anarchist.”
The three city council members who voted against the carbon tax said that it was a rushed process that could lead to strong opposition from the community. On Monday, Xcel Energy and a number of business and groups including the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, Denver Chamber of Commerce, and the pipefitters, plumbing, and sheet metal workers unions sent a letter to the city council expressing their concerns with the process. Previously, Xcel Energy has been praised by Gov. Jared Polis for its work in reducing emissions.
“As you are aware, an initiative such as the one proposed has never been implemented in any major city in our country. Due to this fact, there are significant unknown impacts, as well as questions and concerns that would benefit from a thorough analysis and discussion from City Council and the community, small businesses and employers that are impacted by this measure,” the letter stated.
Mayor Michael Hancock urged similar caution.
In his own letter to the city council, he said, “Deeply concerning, however, is that these proposals have not benefitted from a true community and stakeholder engagement process, from a public and transparent analysis of costs and potential unintended consequences, and from a meaningful effort to build a coalition of supporters. I cannot stress enough the importance of engaging all segments of our community in this conversation, including low-income families, small businesses and those who may shoulder the burden of additional costs.”
Hancock’s letter said he is also in the process of creating a climate change office, possibly duplicating efforts from the city council.
If the full Denver City Council passes the carbon tax measure later this month, it would be placed on the ballot for voters on November 5.
Denver isn’t the only city to take a hard line against fossil fuels in 2019. Last month, Berkley became the first city in California to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings.
New York and New Jersey are blocking the construction of a new natural gas pipeline into the region that is already hurting the formation of new businesses and housing projects.
On Monday, the Austin, Texas City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency.
ABC 7 reports the city council will hold a public comment hearing on August 26 with a final council vote still to be determined.