Boulder Extends Carbon Tax; Washington County Bans GMOs

Among the many important referendums voters passed in the election are a couple of local ones that caught our eyes.

Carbon Tax Extended in Boulder

In Colorado, voters in Boulder overwhelmingly passed a referendum to extend the nation’s first municipal carbon tax for another five years, 82%-18%.

"It allows us to continue as a model for other communities in terms of programs that are cost-effective and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are just a good return on investment," says Matt Appelbaum, Boulder’s Mayor.

First passed in 2006, Boulder’s Climate Action Plan taxes  electricity consumption through utility bills and uses the funds – about $2 million a year – to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The average cost to ratepayers is $21 a year, businesses $94 a year, and industrial customers $9600 a year. It pays for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, such as free energy audits and rebates and education.

Going forward, Boulder plans to focus more on the commercial sector where 60% of its emissions originate. Businesses are already tracking their energy use under a pilot program, and benchmarking and reporting will likely will be mandatory next year, say city officials. They are also considering mandating that businesses reach specific energy efficiency targets.

Boulder already has efficiency standards in place for rental housing buildings under its SmartRegs program, funded by the carbon tax. It helps landlords reach the mandates through rebates and incentives for making efficiency upgrades.

Washington County Bans GMOs

In another local referendum, voters in San Juan County, Washington banned GMOs with 61% of the vote. 

Measure No. 2012-4, led by organic farmers and other citizens, makes it illegal to "propagate, cultivate, raise or grow plants, animals and other organisms which have been genetically modified."

Violators will be fined for a first offense, rising to a gross misdemeanor charge on the third offense.

"I’m proud to live in a county that could see the immense benefit of passing this forward-thinking initiative," says Marta Nielsen, an organic farmer.

San Juan County consists of several islands in the Salish Sea, between Bellingham Victoria, Canada.

In 2004, several California counties passed GMO planting bans:  Mendocino, Marin, Santa Cruz, and Trinity.

On the GMO labeling front, after losing the California referendum to big money, 53-47%, advocates say they are disappointed but not deterred by the defeat.

They’ve already formed the GMO Inside coalition and campaign, intended to help people find GMO-laden food products on supermarket shelves.

"Corporations may have misled voters in California about GMOs, but they can’t change the fact that over 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of foods with genetically engineered ingredients," says Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America. "The GMO Inside campaign will make it possible for all Americans to find GMOs in the food products in their homes and communities, label them, and switch to non-GMO foods instead. The campaign will show corporations that people will not complacently serve as lab rats for the testing of genetically engineered foods."

The campaign is led by Food Democracy Now!, Green America, Institute for Responsible Technology, Foodbabe, Nature’s Path and Nutiva.

Another similar effort is that of Fooducate, which has a mobile app that allows people to research foods they are eating and buying.

Vermont, Connecticut and other states, tried to pass GMO-labeling legislation over the past year, but despite strong backing by residents, lawmakers backed off when Monsanto threatened to sue. 

India’s GMO labeling law comes into effect January 1. When that happens, the US and Canada will be the only two major nations in the world that don’t require labels. 50 countries mandate labels, including Australia, Japan, China, Russia and all countries in the European Union.

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