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Update: Congress Votes Against Carbon Tax Despite Opposing Campaign By Environmentalists

Bill Barron sits in his office.
Judy Fahys / KUER News
Bill Barron is part of a group that's asking Congress to adopt a fee-and-dividend approach to climate change. In this 2016 photo, he's wearing a t-shirt for the U.S. Senate campaign he mounted in an effort to talk climate change with voters.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. MST 7/19/18


The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a resolution Thursday that condemns carbon taxes as detrimental to the U.S. economy.


The 229-180 vote was non-binding but symbolic and had three Utah House members — Republicans Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis — joining the majority.


But U.S. Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, was the only one of Utah's delegation to the House who voted “no.” She was one of just six Republicans to side against the resolution.


In a statement issued after the vote, she said that environmental stewardship is important to her and her constituents. She also said environmental health and robust economic growth can coexist.


“We shouldn’t be removing ideas from discussion and consideration before we’ve had a legitimate discussion and conducted thorough research,” she said in the statement. “Furthermore, I don’t believe that Congress should be in the business of taking non-binding stances on hypothetical or nonexistent legislation when so many other important issues have real solutions already proposed.”


Congress passed the measure that declares carbon taxes harmful to Americans and the economy. But, even before the floor debate got underway, Utahns were taking part in a campaign to derail the proposal.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Rep. David B. McKinley, R-WV, in April introduced the measure opposing future carbon-tax legislation. Scalise and McKinley contend that taxes on releasing the emissions blamed for climate change are job killers and would counter President Donald Trump’s call for American “energy dominance.”

“Working with President Trump, this Congress is leading America toward energy dominance and strong economic growth,” Scalise said in a statement announcing the bill. 


The lawmakers, both from fossil-fuel energy states, have support from groups like Americans for Tax Reform and the American Farm Bureau Federation, and 47 other lawmakers. U.S. Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, did not sign on as a cosponsor, nor did Utah’s three other House Republicans.


The resolution also states that a carbon tax will increase energy prices and food costs, fall hardest on the poor, elderly and those with a fixed income and spur businesses to move offshore.  


Even though it lacks the force of law, the resolution could spur lawmakers to take a stand on an issue that many see as today’s most urgent environmental problem. The resolution also serves as a kind of loyalty check on the Trump administration’s energy-dominance agenda.

Climate activists mounted their own campaign to block the resolution in hopes Congress would not miss an opportunity to address climate change in the future.

“We don’t want to close the door on what could be a very efficient, market-based solution,” Bill Barron, regional director for the Citizens Climate Lobby, said in a phone interview.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a national organization that calls on lawmakers to address climate change and promotes its own “carbon fee and dividend” solution. Its proposal would impose a fee on carbon emissions at the source, including mines, wells and ports of entry. Net revenue collected from those fees would be returned to households.

“It protects consumers from the increased fuel prices that they would see at the pump, as well as the pass-through prices on products,” said Barron.

A revenue-neutral approach like this could actually help the economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change, Barron said. Climate-action activists say an approach like this is the most feasible solution to lowering U.S. carbon emissions.

Citizens Climate Lobby also asked its nearly 100,000 members to tell their representatives to vote no on the resolution. Mia Vinding, a high school student, left a voicemail message for U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.

“This is an issue that’s going to affect my generation quite significantly,” she said.  “So, it was a great opportunity to share my opinion although I can’t vote yet.”



Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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