Tompkins County has passed a resolution urging Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend legislation.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is advancing legislation that would place a fee on the emissions from burning fossil fuels that would be levied at the point of fuel production. The fee would start at $15 per ton of carbon equivalent and increase by $10 per ton each year until carbon emissions are reduced to 90 percent below 1990 levels, according to documents attached to the resolution.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby estimates that each $10 of fee is the equivalent of a 10-cent increase in the cost of a gallon of gasoline.

According to the resolution, the fee would motivate everyone “to conserve and adopt renewable energy without the need for extensive governmental regulatory controls or infrastructure, encouraging consumers and the market to replace consumption of carbon-based energy with innovative, sustainable energy sources, whether by being more efficient or choosing other, less carbon intensive energy sources.”

The fee would also encourage innovative processes in every field energy is consumed, from transportation to architectural planning and construction, the resolution states.

Nancy Jacobson and Miranda Phillips of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby presented information about the fee to legislators Tuesday. Jacobson said the fee would start small to give business a chance to catch up.

“Once it gets more sizable, then it sends a strong market signal that fossil fuels are not the future, that you need to go other routes,” Jacobson said. “So innovation and investment then favors non-fossil fuel energy sources.”

All net collections from the fee would rebated to all U.S. households on a per capita basis, according to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and it is estimated that two-thirds of households would either see a net gain or break even on their household budgets, with the positive impact greater for lower-income households.

In 2013, Citizens’ Climate Lobby commissioned Regional Economic Models, Inc. to study the effect of a carbon fee on the economy. REMI found in the first 20 years, a carbon fee and dividend policy could reduce carbon emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels. The study is further broken down into regions. According to REMI, the mid-Atlantic region, which includes New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, would see more jobs and a $13.7 million increase in gross regional product.

The county joins the City of Ithaca and Danby in passing a resolution.

Jacobson said it is important to receive support from Tompkins County and other municipalities because when they asked Congressman Tom Reed who he wanted to hear from on the issue, Jacobson said he wanted to hear from local government as well as the manufacturing and agriculture sectors.

The draft resolution is below. Note that one paragraph was added during Tompkins County Legislature on Tuesday. The final version will be uploaded when available.

Resolution: Urging United States Congress to Pass Carbon Fee and Dividend Legislation by Kelsey O’Connor on Scribd

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.