A recent letter-writer argued that Senate Bill 189, which would have created a carbon tax, was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee and could not be blasted to the Senate floor because “many legislators doubt that CO2 emissions cause global warming” and believe that “SB 189 would destroy our economy and rob us of freedoms when renewable energy would necessitate rationing.” She also says that “scientists presented evidence that CO2 followed warming, but did not cause it.”

There is absolutely no basis for these claims. I was the sponsor of SB 189 and also served on the Senate Energy Committee that heard the bill (not the Judicary Committee, as she says). No “scientists” appeared at the hearing for the bill to present evidence and opponents of the bill were not prepared or willing to argue any of the positions that the letter attributes to them.

Indeed, when the bill came up for executive action, the chairman of the committee recognized the vice-chairman, rather than me, who moved to table the bill without a single word of debate. At no point were opponents willing to engage in an honest discussion about the causes of climate change or the merits of a carbon tax. In that respect, they resemble President Trump, who does not dispute climate science, but simply ignores it.

Economically, it is worth noting that SB 189 allocated all the revenue from the carbon tax, which would have been generated mostly from utility customers in Washington and Oregon, to provide very significant property tax relief. The average Montana family would have paid somewhat more for its electricity, but would have enjoyed a much larger reduction in its property tax bill. But that is something opponents of the bill did not appreciate, presumably because they never considered SB 189 seriously.

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Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, represents Senate District 45 in the Montana Legislature. 


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