Credit: BP

Oil companies, including BP and Koch Industries, have continued to pour money into the campaign against I-1631. As of October 22, oil and fossil fuel companies had contributed more than $25 million to the industry PAC opposing I-1631, the initiative that would create a carbon tax and spend the receipts on renewable energy and climate change mitigation. Most of that money—$25,179,028.93, to be exact—has come from out of state companies. Washington fossil fuel companies have contributed $561,031.31, or about 2 percent of the fossil fuel industry’s spending on the race.

The largest out-of-state contributors to the No on I-1631 campaign are:

  • BP America, $9,596,031.40
  • Phillips 66, $7,201,186.54
  • Andeavor, $4,362,827.17
  • American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, $1,000,000.00
  • Valero, $995,000.00
  • Koch Industries, $550,000.00
  • Chevron, $500,000.00

The No campaign has also drawn support from the in-state agriculture (potato and fruit grower PACs) and concrete industries.

Meanwhile, the Yes campaign has raised $13 million, and its message prominently mentions oil companies’ spending.

The Yes campaign’s leading donors are:

  • The Nature Conservancy, $1,550,000.00
  • League of Conservation Voters, $1,400,000.00
  • Bill Gates, $1,000,000.00
  • Michael Bloomberg, $1,000,000.00
  • Chris Stolte, $500,000.00
  • Sarah Merner, $500,000.00
  • Action Now Initiative LLC, $500,000.00
  • Craig McKibben, $500,000.00

The Yes campaign has (unsurprisingly) drawn the support of most of the state’s environmental groups. The Washington State Labor Council, the state branch of the AFL-CIO, also kicked in $125,000.00. Microsoft contributed $50,000.00.

34 Replies to “Out-of-state oil companies spending more than $25 million against I-1631”

  1. “The No campaign has also drawn support from the in-state agriculture (potato and fruit grower PACs)”

    I saw this one coming and I can’t say I blame them.

    I’m all for saving the planet but in an equitable way would be nice.

    1. What would be an equitable way to discourage wasteful use of fossil fuels by the agriculture industry?

      1. Better have something other than a larger gas bill or not going to get support from farmers.

        Guarantees of grants for new energy efficient machinery, van pools for farm workers, investment in conservation projects, Dairy Digesters and Manure Management, healthy soil programs, fire prevention and healthy forest investments, bio-fuel incorporation and etc.

        State needs to soften the blow somehow, light rail, electric buses and electric charging infrastructure isn’t going to cut it.

      1. I think agricultural fuels (used on farm only) are actually excluded from the carbon fee, but the overall transportation costs would go up (getting products to market). I’m not really clear on this point.

        I have seen an ag org’s messaging on the initiative–it seemed to be reflexively anti-tax without going into much detail. Of course, agricultural is pretty much the most exposed industry to climate change, so lower fuel costs now are being traded for lower yields in future years.

      2. Have read that for electric power, some formerly all-fossil fuel States are starting to find wind and solar cheaper as well as cleaner. Nothing like that available to farmers?


    2. Wouldn’t an equitable way be removing the use of fossil fuels completely? In the last month gas prices increased by $0.13 per gallon. This initiative would increase the price by an estimated $0.12 per gallon. More importantly the lower the income the closer the proximity to highways where emissions lead to high rates of asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. Many communities would directly benefit from reducing overall emissions.

      So how do the poor, who you are so concerned about, deal with the general volatility in gas prices and ever increasing health care costs?

      How about we stop pretending to care about the poor and stop using them as a scapegoat to get out of taking financial responsibility for our destructive actions?

      1. Southeasterner,
        Don’t you think that developing an energy source that doesn’t require extensive extraction and transport of minerals will be cheaper in the long run if we do it on a mass scale? Instead of several coal and gas power plants in each state, a wind farm on every farm and ranch, and a solar panel on every roof. Instead of sending my money off to some mining company or oil company and its investors and profiteers, I’d much rather pay lease money to farmers who allow SPU or TPU to have a wind turbine in their alfalfa or soy field that doesn’t pollute my air. If we make the gasoline bill hurt enough, maybe more people would spring for the electric vehicle and the technology would develop faster and more fully. Some short term hurt for long term improvement. Moreover, wouldn’t it be a whole lot worse for the world’s poor who face famine and flooding if we do nothing?

  2. To be completely fair, some of the out-of-state oil companies have very big operations in Washington. BP and Phillips 66, for example, have very large refineries in Whatcom County. I’m curious why I don’t see Shell and Tesoro, the other big refinery owners in the state, on this list.

    1. Tesoro changed it’s name to Andeavor, number 3 on the list. I’m also surprised not to see Shell.

    2. Reaping profits on the backs of Washington’s workers and at the risk of those of us who live within the blast zone of the railroad cars transporting the petroleum. They have operations here, but they do little to actually benefit our state.

      1. And it will stay that way until Washington has a higher corporate income tax than Oregon does.

      2. Read that the Secretary of Transportation has just relieved the railroads of the need to install special braking systems on trains carrying oil and natural gas.


  3. Wow. $25,179,028.93 trucked in from elsewhere and spent in WA? That’s awesome! You couldn’t design a more effective/efficient economic stimulus program if you tried.

    If you are still on the fence this is a great reason to vote no. We can just keep bringing it back to a vote year after year and watch the dollars roll in!

    I have zero confidence the money raised will be used to effectively reduce carbon emissions. Hard details are difficult to find on where we would spend this billion+ dollars/year, we’re just supposed to trust that the created “panels” will find a way to spend our money wisely. For examples of how this plays out let’s look to our billion dollar Move Seattle levy that put in all those sidewalks and built that basic downtown bicycle network – oh wait, no the money was squandered or re-allocated to road projects for cars and trucks. So helpful! Or maybe that Seattle soda tax which effectively raised funds via a highly-regressive tax .. that are being diverted to the general fund. Sorry poor people!

    “70 percent to the clean air and clean energy account for investments related to air quality and energy such as programs, activities, or projects that:

    assist low-income people with transitioning to an economy that uses renewable energy rather than fossil fuels;”

    This sentence is rather vague but I’m pretty sure I can discern that it won’t be used to reduce carbon emissions. Rather it appears to address the negative repercussions of enacting this scheme. I appreciate the acknowledgement but wouldn’t it be more efficient to just not do this and not need these mitigation funds?

    “reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector such as investing in public transit, electric car charging stations, deploying zero-emission vehicles;”

    I refer again to the Move Seattle levy. Let’s read this sentence and estimate how much will go towards public transit and how much will go towards further subsidizing SOVs. Electric cars may not contribute to emissions directly but an SOV is an SOV. Dependence on SOVs leads to traffic congestion and urban sprawl which … result in increased carbon emissions!

    “5 percent to the healthy communities account for investments related to communities, such as programs, activities, or projects that:
    Enhance community awareness and preparedness for, during, and after wildfires;
    Develop and implement ways to provide support for tribal communities impacted by wildfires;
    Relocate tribal communities that are impacted by a rising sea level; and
    Develop and implement education programs to enhance awareness of climate change and its related impacts.”

    None (0%) of this section will reduce carbon emissions.

    1. >> I have zero confidence the money raised will be used to effectively reduce carbon emissions.

      Maybe you don’t quite get the point. It is about the money raised, it is about the tax. The tax itself reduces carbon emissions, as it has in other areas of the world (including our nearest neighbor, to the north). It really is baffling how often people ignore B. C. It is closer to Seattle than Oregon, and way closer than Idaho. Yet somehow folks treat it like it is Katmandu. I get it. Americans are provincial by nature and folks in the Northwest — living out here, in the corner of the country — tend to be even more that way. I wouldn’t expect us to have the perspective of, say, someone living in Belgium.

      But come on! It is not that far, and yet we seem completely oblivious to what is going on there. Just search for “carbon tax” and one of the first things that comes up is the tax in British Columbia (maybe because Google does consider location in its searches). A simple Wikipedia selection leads to this little gem:

      According to the World Bank, British Columbia’s carbon tax policy has been very effective in spurring fuel efficiency gains. Further, the resulting decreases in fuel consumption did not harm economic growth; on the contrary, the province has outperformed the rest of Canada’s since 2008.[11]

      Not a dime of that tax in B. C. was spent reducing carbon emissions. Not a single dime! Yet somehow, magically, it has lead to lower carbon emissions. That is the nature of a Pigovian tax. The tax, by itself, changes behavior.

      1. So it’s not about using the money effectively, but is strictly about punishing people into driving less? Are you missing a tag?

      2. @Nolan

        Enough playing the victim card. The planet is warming and its out of control. We humans have sat on our hands long enough.

        We have to put some sort of restriction on carbon, and a mild price increase is the most gentle way we know of that is even remotely effective.

        Do I want to see the proceeds used effectively to mitigate change? Of course. We don’t have the time to keep playing these games though.

        A cost on carbon use needs to be put in place, and ir ought to have been done years ago. It ought to be higher, but we have to start somewhere.

        The ice is melting, our climate is changing and its well past time to act.

      3. “So it’s not about using the money effectively, but is strictly about punishing people into driving less”

        It’s both. The previous initiative was solely about changing the incentives for using fossil fuels. This one uses some of the money to help lower-income people impacted by the policy and to do more direct things to get closer to carbon neutrality. Even if neither of these funds do what they’re intended, the first part (changing the incentives) will still be effective. It’s not just a matter of moral police but of addressing externalities that harm others besides the polluter. Even a modest surcharge will affect a few people’s decisions. And the price is still less than the two or three dollars per gallon taxed by all other industrialized countries.

    2. That 5% may not help invest in carbon free energy, but where else will you get the money to prepare for rising sea levels, deal with wildfires that will increase due to climate change, etc.?

      1. How about if we stop calling it a punitive tax and start calling it a bill for what you benefit from?

        Mark Dublin

    3. Registered to vote? You’re a part owner of the State of Washington. So if everybody officially in charge is screwing up that bad, you’ve got elected representatives to confront about it, and the right to get together with your co-voters and put them out of office.

      Nobody knew that the Soviet Union was going to fall apart just before it did. What happened as a result- you didn’t have any representation there, so not your fault. But you are in a position to help straighten things out here. I think most people’s exhaustion with Government is a wrong understanding what it’s really for.

      Our country was created in the Age of Reason- which as reason does, had a short shelf-life if when not kept cool. But attracted a fair number of skilled tradesmen and machinists, whom English aristocrats thought smelled bad even if their work left them rich. And not believing that soap caused leprosy.

      And they conceived of Government not as either a power-hungry policeman or a rich benefactor. But as the peoples’ own machinery that every citizen would learn how to operate. As machine tooling was done in those days, with hands that came home with proof that at least needed stitches.

      Resulting in ability to calculate and calibrate with intelligence that could stand being dropped on a stone floor. With which they would learn to create and build into a Government with which to build a country. To people like Benjamin Franklin, kindergarten to PhD would be a trade-school. Where students would learn history and philosophy. With small-arms care and combat in gym every day, as part of the intense and demanding one- hour Republic-Operation Training Class.

      Geometry best taught with calipers first and incomprehensibility second. I’ve watched eight year olds find the height of the Smith Tower to within five feet using measured footsteps and precision-aimed popsicle sticks. Pretty sure faculty rules made saying “trigonometry” be three four letter words.

      Legend has it that it wasn’t yellow fever that destroyed all this. British agents in the pay of the Confederates invented the WASL. Which finally points the way to its restoration. People who’d use taxpayers’ money to invent that will believe anything.


  4. Do those spending reports include the value of Rob McKenna’s time. He’s pretty relentlessly shilling against this measure under the guise of “consumer protection.” Does that count as an in-kind contribution, and/or does he get paid for his advocacy?

    1. He’s poison enough that he doesn’t even introduce himself on the radio spots. “As a former Attorney General, I….”

  5. Could anyone tell me exactly where all this money goes?
    Does it just recycle thru the closely held media?
    Does anyone in the state actually get this money to spend on clothes, a car, or rent?
    That’s a bunch of cash being thrown around.
    Besides the issues, it’s just a lot or money to be ‘quoted’ but how and where is it spread?
    Will a penny of it reach anyone who is homeless?

    1. The language in the initiative itself says how it must be spent. It is not completely specific and prescriptive. If you feel this language is too loose, then you likely have a problem with scores and scores of other funding bills, because many are just as ambiguous on this one.

      Indeed, often on purpose. Because if you make them too prescriptive and conditions change during the life of the bill, it’s hell to try to allow people to make administrative adjustments.

      People don’t actually hold all or even most funding bills to this standard. This is just a convenient thing to say right now when you’ve already made up your mind about the initiative.

      FWIW – I don’t believe you care about the homeless. I don’t believe you care about the precision of the language, nor do I think you actually care enough about the answers to your own questions to read and find out the answers. I just don’t.

    2. I doubt very much a lot of it ever gets to Washington. Newspaper ads go to the newspaper owners, and TV ads go to TV station owners, who are mostly out of state. Campaign lawn signs are made by whoever is cheapest, and that is probably Bangladesh or somewhere. It’s not like this is a grassroots campaign that will go to the local sign shop. I doubt most people will be paid for the lawn signs in their laws, but a few might.

      So mostly it’s just several big companies paying other companies.

    3. I suspect some small amount of it goes to hire internet trolls to make repeated nonsensical arguments against the initiative.

  6. “I know, sweetie, but the carbon tax as written had a couple of mechanisms that weren’t quite right, and some of the language was slightly ambiguous.”

    “Now pack your bags, we have to abandon the state of Florida.”

  7. Wish Citizens United had included a provision flatly forbidding revelation of amounts each party is spending. Or that some part of the media had the guts just not to print them. If they’ve got any predictive value in predicting the outcome of any election, they shouldn’t.

    If we’re not accepting bribery as a fact of life, why should it make any difference what any candidate says they’ve raised. Because does any law say they have to tell the truth? About either each other or themselves? I’ve got a deep old grudge on this matter.

    Being told I wasn’t doing my part in a campaign because of how little money I was on record as contributing. Worst thing was likelihood the commenter billed his own time. Would like to see a candidate refuse to give amounts, but insisted on listing their every contributor.

    And daring their opponents to do the same. My transit driving started long after vehicle horsepower was determined by counting the horse-shoe prints. But still pretty sure that your ‘car’s acceleration was stronger the more often the company aired out its stable.

    Mark Dublin


  8. Or even worse, accepting that money for advertising will win the election, not thinking or qualification of the candidate. How many people besides me favor blanket public financing of every election? And for those demanding political introduction into religion….remind us Who it was that created the airwaves?


  9. Can’t resist using this link so often, would be priceless image for campaign videos in rural areas:

    Play this one:

    Right under this one:

    Mount this pantograph on a 60′ “artic” trolleybus and at least it’ll get Ellensburg start to flex on thinking about passenger transit if you’ve got the stars and stripes flapping on the radio antenna.

    All you need is to know how to say “Breaker, breaker good buddy, Smokey’s got a Bear in the Air!”
    over the PA in Swedish. Though might get a wider audience in Minnesota.


  10. Trudeau proposes a nationwide carbon tax in Canada. It would be like Vancouver’s, rebating the proceeds to residents. “Around 70 percent of citizens will get more in rebates than they pay in taxes; that is, the tax system is net progressive. For most people, it is a net financial boost.”

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