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Millionaire megadonor bankrolls effort to repeal one of America's most innovative climate programs: 'It doesn't have to be this way'

"The number of permits available at auctions will decrease every year, lowering the cap for overall emissions in the state."

“The number of permits available at auctions will decrease every year, lowering the cap for overall emissions in the state.”

Photo Credit: iStock

The United States government and many U.S. states have been working hard to introduce policies and initiatives to benefit the environment, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and an ambitious target to reach net-zero carbon pollution by 2050.

But one conservative donor is looking to undo some of that good work.

What's happening?

Hedge fund manager Brian Heywood is trying to repeal Washington state's cap-and-invest program, according to E&E News. The initiative Heywood is targeting has raised nearly $2 billion in almost a year, which is earmarked for more electric vehicle chargers and decarbonization programs.

The program requires businesses that create over 25,000 metric tons of pollution to then pay for each additional ton. 

"The cap-and-invest program creates a limited number of state-issued carbon permits to be auctioned four times a year to companies that exceed the 25,000-metric-ton threshold," as NBC News detailed. "The number of permits available at auctions will decrease every year, lowering the cap for overall emissions in the state." 

But Heywood is trying to scrap this scheme, suggesting that Democrats were not clear on how this policy would increase the cost of gas at the pump. He has spent $7 million getting signatures to add the repeal of the policy to November's ballot, alongside trying to "repeal capital gains taxes, forbid income taxes, allow opt-outs of the state's long-term care program, relax rules around vehicular police chases and create a 'parental bill of rights' for schools," per E&E.

Why is this concerning?

Heywood's attempts to roll back an initiative that will provide so many environmental benefits are concerning, not least because they will also likely lead to an increase in carbon pollution from the industries that were previously under strict rules.

Using fines from polluting businesses to pay for planet-friendly changes is just one way these companies can mitigate the damage they are doing, and if it is repealed, not only will positive actions be undone, but polluters will once again go unchecked as they release harmful gases into the atmosphere, increasing the rate of global heating in the process.

What can be done about cases like this?

Contacting your local representative is one way to make your voice heard. But keeping your hard-earned money away from the clutches of polluting companies and instead supporting eco-conscious businesses is another way to get them to notice of shifting attitudes when it comes to environmentalism.

It's not always easy, but actions like switching to an electric car to stop buying gas from big oil or investing in domestic renewable energy to stop paying utility companies for power will signal that we've had enough of the damage these businesses are causing to life on Earth. 

Kevin Slagle, vice president of strategic communications for the Western States Petroleum Association — which has been running attack ads against cap-and-trade — said that while he believes the program could be improved, getting rid of it would be counterproductive.

"That would be an unfortunate outcome, because it doesn't have to be this way," he said, per E&E. "Have we been a perfect industry? No, but if we're gonna try to really problem-solve, we've got to be able to sit down [with Democrats] and talk and sort of push this other stuff away. And I think that's what's really frustrating. Now you've got an initiative on the table that, really — it's a wild card now."

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