Are you frustrated by the inaction in Washington, D.C. on the deepening climate crisis? Are you trying to figure out what more you could do, in addition to what you’re already doing, to advance a much-needed clean energy revolution in the USA?

Here’s an answer: work to enact a local tax on carbon polluters in your area. It can happen, and it doesn’t take forever! In May of this year, in Montgomery County, Md., the County Council became the first county government in the country to enact a carbon tax. The owners of an 850 megawatt coal plant in the county, Mirant Corporation, will now have to pay approximately $15 million a year to the county for their pollution!

Mirant went to federal court soon after this decision and lost. They have appealed to the Court of Appeals.

You can find out more details about this successful campaign below.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network urges you to discuss this with other activists in your area and then reach out to town, city or county council members who have done positive things on the environment. It just takes one council member to introduce carbon tax legislation. We have information that can help you with your local effort at this link and here.

Let’s cultivate the seeds, shoots and flowers of a thousand local carbon tax efforts around the country!

The Montgomery County Council campaign

The successful effort in Montgomery County was directed at Mirant Corporation’s coal plant in Dickerson, Md. The carbon tax legislation was written to apply to any entity in the county which emits more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and Mirant is the only one that meets that criterion.

The $5 per ton tax will generate more than $15 million for the county at the same time that it creates an economic incentive for Mirant to reduce its emissions. At least half of the tax revenue will be used to fund county energy efficiency programs. The tax will have no discernible impact on local ratepayers, according to PEPCO, the local utility. PEPCO buys its power in an auction; if Mirant’s power is not competitive, it will not be purchased, and Mirant does not have enough “market power” to raise the price of power unilaterally.

This victory was not won easily. Mirant and the Electric Power Supply Association used all kinds of tactics against the proposal, obviously treating it as a national test case. And in a classic case of overkill tactics backfiring, they brought in rowdy and disruptive Tea party protesters to a council meeting where a key vote was taken. Their behavior ended up strengthening support for the measure, and it passed by a vote of 8-1.

It is gratifying that this carbon tax bill is now law. It is gratifying that polluter Mirant lost this round. It is gratifying that the Tea Party crowd was confronted and defeated. It will be even more gratifying if this victory in one county helps lead to similar efforts and victories in many other towns and counties this year and in coming years.