A grassroots effort to add the Carbon Cash Back resolution on town meeting warrants, a move supported by the national nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Lobby, has taken off throughout Franklin County. If the article is adopted by voters, the resolution would require the towns’ selectpersons to send letters of support for nationwide carbon-pricing legislation to federal and state representatives.

Cynthia Stancioff volunteers for Citizens’ Climate Lobby to raise awareness in Franklin County about carbon-pricing legislation that would also provide consumers with monthly dividend checks. File photo.

Local Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteer Cynthia Stancioff explained that the goal of the resolution is to send a message to Congress and to spread awareness to people of the inevitable arrival of carbon-priced legislation.

“It’s a really simple method of attacking the exact problem which is carbon emissions and assessing a fee to producers of fossil fuels based on how much carbon their products are going to emit,” Stancioff said in a phone interview. “So putting a price on carbon means pricing fossil fuels at realistic prices, realistic in the sense that the pollution or the negative effects that are in the hidden costs.” 

The resolution that volunteers are pushing is referred to as Carbon Cash Back and is based off of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act,  that was introduced to Congress in 2018 and is co-sponsored by Maine 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree. The act charges fossil fuel producers $15 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) starting the first year of enactment with price rises the following years.

“This fee would be charged to the producers when the fuel comes out of the well or the mine, the coal mine or the gas coming in at the port,” Stancioff said. “So it’s all based on volume of that fuel and the pre-calculated amount of carbon that it’s going to emit. So that’s where the money gets paid, that’s where the fee is collected. Nobody pays that fee except the producer.”

The proposed legislation assumes that the fee placed on producers will eventually reach the consumer at the gas pump or when purchasing products such a heating fuel. Stancioff said this would translate to a 14 cent rise per gallon of gas the first year.

With this particular proposal of carbon pricing, the consumer receives a monthly dividend check that should amount or even surpass the carbon fee they’ve paid for on products.

“We’re pretty much avoiding calling it a carbon tax because actually since the government doesn’t take the money in to the general fund and do what they want with it, it’s not really a tax, it’s a fee that gets redistributed to people,” Stancioff said.  

The Carbon Cash Back calculator provides consumers with their personalized average monthly fee and dividends based on their household and income information. Results above show for a single person with one car, living in a propane-heated apartment and earning less than $26,000 a year would pay $14 a month in carbon fees and receive an $18 monthly dividend check. Andrea Swiedom Screenshot/Franklin Journal

To assess the amount of these monthly dividends, the act established a personal carbon dividend calculator in which a participant can enter their household income, household size, type of residence, how they heat their residence and the number of vehicles the household drives.

The calculator determines the person’s average monthly carbon fee and the monthly dividend that the participant would receive. Stancioff explained that a person could receive a higher dividend than their fee if they choose to make consumer choices that do not require fossil fuels.

It’s a market-economics thing,” Stancioff said. “As prices rise, consumer behavior responds; to the extent that they can make choices that are using alternatives, they will.” 

Ideally, Stancioff said that this will incentivize not only individuals but manufacturers and producers to move away from fossil fuels at an accelerated pace.

It’s also extremely effective in cutting carbon emissions…we have a very limited timeframe in which we, as the whole world can cut down the carbon emissions enough to avoid a really kind of catastrophic course that you won’t be able to reverse in the future,” Stancioff said.

There are currently 46 countries enforcing carbon pricing and European Union commissioners have proposed taxing products coming from countries that have not established carbon-pricing in their economies.

Stancioff stressed that the Carbon Cash Back proposal would address the inevitable, upcoming carbon pricing in the U.S. without hurting consumers.

It’s happening all over the world, it’s gonna happen,” she said. “That’s sort of why we’re really pushing for this particular approach because if there’s going to be carbon pricing, this is the kind you want where people don’t have to bear the burden in the rise of cost of carbon.” 

The resolution will appear on Farmington, Wilton, Vienna and Starks town warrants. Chesterville residents voted down the resolution on Monday, March 22.

To see an interactive map of towns in Maine that will be voting on the resolution, visit https://www.carboncashback4me.org/home.


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