Attorneys General Fox and Michael Raise Concerns over Carbon Tax Legislation

HELENA – In a letter sent to Washington Governor Jay Inslee Tuesday, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael raise legal concerns over “carbon tax” legislation currently being considered by the Washington Legislature. In the letter, General Fox and General Michael point to the legislation’s intent to regulate emissions generated outside of Washington’s borders, stating “Washington State obviously does not have jurisdiction to regulate environmental issues in Montana and Wyoming. Yet the clear intent of SSB 6203 is to force non-Washington power generation facilities into compliance with Washington air quality regulations through the imposition of a tax on carbon dioxide emitted outside Washington.” The attorneys general state in the letter their concerns the legislation likely conflicts with the Federal Clean Air Act, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules, and the U.S. Constitution. “The effect of SSB 6203 goes far beyond environmental concerns in Washington. The United States Constitution forbids states from regulating interstate commerce. Also, Washington’s effort to require out-of-state entities to comply with the statute’s exemption provisions likely conflicts with the federal Clean Air Act. Finally, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has exclusive authority to regulate the transmission and sale of electric energy in interstate commerce, without regard to the source of production.” In its current form, Senate Bill 6203 would impose a per ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions generated in the state of Washington, or emissions tied to electricity sold in Washington but generated in other states. Utilities serving Washington consumers have ownership share in coal-fired power plants in other states, Colstrip being the largest station in Montana. Click here to view the letter.

Power lines leaving Colstrip, MT. Photo by Lori Shaw (2016)

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