Tax breaks for oil have got to stop! Tales from the 2014 Legislative Session

The short 2014 Washington legislative session concluded on Thursday night, and centered on a single question: How will we prepare a better future for our children? The question was central to the policies put forward by the Environmental Priorities Coalition: Do we want a future where basic education is fully funded, and our communities are safe? Or will we let fossil fuel companies gobble up tax breaks and run dangerous oil tankers through our backyards?

In Olympia, the answer to that question was shown by Big Oil’s lobbying power, which was on full display this year. Rep. Reuven Carlyle introduced a bill that would close the Big Oil Loophole to help fund education, but ultimately, Big Oil twisted arms in Olympia and got away with taking our tax dollars yet again. When our children’s future and education is at stake, our classrooms are packed and our teachers are under-resourced, it is simply unacceptable to give $63 million dollars to oil companies that are flush with cash.

Elsewhere on clean energy, Climate Solutions and our allied organizations, Northwest Energy Coalition, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Conservation Voters and Renewable Northwest Project, were able to defeat another onslaught of attacks on Washington’s most effective clean energy policy, the Energy Independence Act, or Initiative 937. With your help and the Governor’s leadership, we prevented any significant changes to the law. During this session, however, the conversation did begin to turn to the future of clean energy in our state and how to strengthen and extend I-937 beyond 2020. We know that the energy efficiency and clean energy components of the law are enormously successful at reducing pollution and creating jobs, and we need to have a productive conversation about how to build on that progress. We cannot talk about the future though, if we are constantly defending the gains of the present. Next session, we must call upon our legislators to continue towards a sustainable future and grow our clean energy economy by building on the success of I-937.

Short legislative sessions are difficult, because legislators are tackling complex issues on an accelerated timeline. At the same time, global warming continues apace, and we risk dangerous climate disruption on an accelerating timeline as well. As we recognize our successful defense of the clean energy economy in 2014 and look towards the 2015 legislative session, we cannot be satisfied with simply holding the line. The best science tells us that we are on track for dangerous climate disruption. In the next year we have to show Olympia that oil companies, and their fossil fueled cronies, will not be allowed to run our state. We can embrace a clean energy future that creates jobs, improves the health of our families and lessens the dangers of climate change, but we must break the strangle hold that fossil fuels — oil and coal — have on our economy and our legislature. Let’s make the rest of 2014, and all of 2015, about holding fossil fuel companies accountable to create a better world for our children.

Author Bio

Jessica Finn Coven

former Washington State Director, Climate Solutions

Jessica Finn Coven is Director of the City of Seattle's Office of Sustainability & Environment.

Jessica previously served as the Washington State Director of Climate Solutions where her work focused on developing legislative and policy strategies to reduce global warming pollution and grow an equitable clean-energy economy in Washington State. Jessica first joined Climate Solutions in 2007 as a policy specialist and worked to further clean energy policy in Washington through the state’s Energy Independence Act, Climate Action and Green Jobs law and others.

Jessica also worked as the program director for the U.S. Climate Action Network. From 2002- 2005, she was a global warming campaigner for Greenpeace in Washington DC. She also spent several months working in Beijing as a policy advisor for Greenpeace China.

Jessica received her MA in economics and energy policy from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and her BA in Mandarin from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Jessica currently sits on the board of Washington Conservation Voters. She lives in Seattle with her husband, young son and old dog.

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