Activists Talk Carbon Fee, Climate Action

Three years ago, a valley resident tried to launch a local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. But that effort fizzled out. The urgency of addressing the climate crisis, however, has only intensified as scientists
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Three years ago, a valley resident tried to launch a local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. But that effort fizzled out. The urgency of addressing the climate crisis, however, has only intensified as scientists point to alarming new records. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association declared the 2010s the hottest decade on record and last year was the second hottest year in the Earth’s history. The public is taking note. According to the Pew Research Center, over the past four years, “the share of Americans who say dealing with global climate change should be a top priority has increased from 38% to 52%.” 

That growing awareness is one reason the Citizens Climate Lobby is making another go at creating a Jackson Hole chapter. 

The grassroots, nonpartisan organization has chapters all over Wyoming and throughout the country. Wesley Frain, a CCL coordinator for the state of Wyoming, says the group’s focus is passing bipartisan federal legislation that would enact a carbon fee and dividend through H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019.

It would tack a fee onto fossil fuels based on the amount of carbon they contain. Advocates call it a “revenue-neutral approach.” At the source, like a mine, well or port, a price is assessed. Then that money is collected and distributed back to households equally.

What’s more, Frain said, is that the bill “will reduce American emissions by 40% within the first 12 years.”

The bill’s sponsor, Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, told Politico in 2018 that “it is the product of rigorous negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.” Some of its co-sponsors and supporters are indeed Republicans. But more are needed. Frain said the legislation has “a hair of bipartisan support.” 

So the organization continues to lobby conservative lawmakers. Frain says the Citizens Climate Lobby is laser-focused on passing a carbon fee and dividend because “we think it’s the most we can do to affect climate change in the shortest amount of time.”

Efforts to launch a local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby this time around are at the hands of the Riverwind Foundation. Sandy Shuptrine, the foundation’s chair, says it is focused on providing people with ways they can live more sustainable lives. “Among those are clean air and mitigation of carbon impacts that have an impact on our economy, like snow.”

Teton County’s carbon footprint is deepening at a notable rate. A carbon emissions report issued last year by Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities found that emissions here increased 17% over the last decade. That increase eclipses population growth, which climbed at a slower pace of 12%. 

Shuptrine hopes that the Citizens Climate Lobby could help inform local efforts underway, like Mayor Pete Muldoon’s grassroots climate group. But even though the mayor spearheaded the initiative, it is not government-led. And ultimately, Shuptrine argues the local government shouldn’t waste time pulling the trigger on new policy.

She pointed to the 2012 comprehensive plan, which guides how the valley should change and grow. Officials and the public worked on that document for years. The plan outlines values like conservation and wildlife, “but we do not yet have in the comp plan much in the way of specifics with how to make a difference” when it comes to those values. “Nor do we have people to implement them within the government.”

Until the government steps up, Shuptrine says she hopes that citizens will show their support when it comes to things like the Citizens Climate Lobby.

Bill Barron, regional director for the Citizens Climate Lobby, says recent events throughout the country and world, from the bushfires in Australia to record-setting temps in Antarctica are compelling Wyomingites to consider the merits of a carbon fee and dividend.

“I’ve been to Cody, Powell, Sheridan, Gillette, Laramie, Lander and now Jackson. From my experience on the road, I believe that there is a broader understanding and concern for climate that has been growing.”

Bill Barron will discuss the efforts of the Citizens Climate Lobby and what a carbon fee and dividend could mean for Wyoming, 4 p.m., February 28 at Teton County Library.

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is building KHOL's first news department. She has worked as a reporter and editor in Wyoming for the last decade and her work has aired on NPR stations throughout the West. When she's not sweating deadlines, Robyn sustains her nomadic heart by traveling the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow @TheNomadicHeart

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