WA cap-and-trade spending falls short for frontline communities

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Washington state’s Climate Commitment Act promised funds for communities on the front lines of climate change. One group is tracking those dollars to make sure the state follows through.

Passed in 2021, the CCA is the state’s carbon cap-and-trade program – with at least 35% of the revenue it generates committed to “Vulnerable Populations within Overburdened Communities.”

However, an analysis by the nonprofit Front and Centered found less than 7% of revenue in the current budget met this requirement.

Guillermo Rogel, legislative and government relations advocate with Front and Centered, said the group is looking at the state’s investment in areas like transportation.

“Some communities are able to afford increased access to public transit, some are not,” said Rogel, “and that’s what CCA investments could be used for. So, it’s just an example of what we want to see.”

Rogel noted that it’s still early in the process of distributing funds from the CCA. Revenue generated by the program has reached nearly $1.5 billion so far, in its first year of carbon auctions.

Rogel said the 2024 legislative session should give lawmakers an opportunity to ensure frontline communities are prioritized.

“We’ll be asking the Legislature take a look at their budget, see what in their budget is explicitly dedicated to overburdened communities,” said Rogel, “where we can be a little bit more clear, and where we could really make sure that the intent and the spirit of bills, like the HEAL Act and the environmental justice provisions of the CCA, are met.”

Also passed in 2021, the HEAL or Healthy Environment for All Act aims to ensure communities affected the most by climate change are prioritized as well.

It requires seven state agencies to direct 40% of their grants and expenditures to these communities.

Featured image: Revenue from Washington state’s cap-and-trade program has exceeded expectations, bringing in $1.5 billion this year. (martin33/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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