Q: Will costs be passed on to consumers?

A: No! Polluters Pay is intentionally designed to avoid passing costs on to consumers. Since we are only targeting the largest fossil fuel corporations, they will still have to compete with other companies and thus will not be able to raise their prices. We are also only targeting these companies for harm already caused, asking them to contribute profits already earned, so it should not affect prices going forward–in fact, it would require illegal collusion for these companies to pass on any of the costs of Polluters Pay to consumers.


Q: How much money would this generate? Where would that money go?

A: We estimate that Polluters Pay will raise $75 billion over the next 25 years, creating a significant Climate Superfund for climate adaptation projects. The funds raised will help prepare our cities and towns for the impacts of climate change, from sea level rise and flooding to drought and extreme heat.


Q: How is this different from carbon pricing?

A: Polluters Pay is a one time fee, while carbon pricing would continue indefinitely. Carbon pricing is a market-based solution that would put a price on each unit of carbon dioxide emitted into the air. Most prices on carbon would apply across the board, rather than targeting the largest fossil fuel companies. That makes prices on carbon easy to pass onto consumers. Polluters Pay doesn’t put a price on future emissions, but instead asks big polluters to pay a fee based on their share of historic emissions. This is easier to implement and ensures that the costs are borne by the largest fossil fuel companies, rather than the public at large.


Q: Is there any precedent for this?

A: The principle behind Polluters Pay follows clear precedent in environmental regulation. It is employed in all of the major US pollution control laws: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (solid waste and hazardous waste management), and Superfund (cleanup of abandoned waste sites). Some eco-taxes underpinned by the polluter pays principle include the Gas Guzzler Tax for motor vehicles; Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), a "polluter pays" fine; and the Superfund law requiring polluters to pay for cleanup of hazardous waste sites, when the polluters can be identified. Polluters Pay would set up a similar climate superfund to support adaptation efforts statewide.


Q: Which companies would be covered by Polluters Pay?

A: The plan targets the top polluters statewide. Even as climate costs rise, fossil fuel profits soar. The payors into the Polluters Pay Climate Fund will be U.S.-based fossil fuel extractors and oil refiners and those foreign-owned companies doing business in the U.S. that were responsible for at least 0.05% of the total carbon dioxide and methane gas emissions between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2019. This will limit the total number of payors to the biggest polluters, with those who polluted the most paying the most.


Q: What’s the chance that this could actually happen?

A: This effort is part of a nationwide campaign with deep local support to fund climate change adaptation with fossil fuel profits. Over 76% of Americans believe that fossil fuel companies should pay for the harm they have caused. Similar campaigns are taking place in Maryland and Vermont, modeled on legislation introduced in the New York Assembly last session. Legislation is being reintroduced on the federal level by Senators Van Hollen, Sanders, Markey, Whitehouse, Warren, and Merkley. Between the state and federal campaigns, we will make the largest polluters pay the biggest cost for the impacts of climate change.


Q: Why is this important?

A: This fund will be crucial as Massachusetts bears rapidly mounting climate costs. Catastrophe modeling shows a major hurricane in Massachusetts in coming years could cause up to $72 billion in damages. In addition, costs just from flooding property damages statewide will likely be in excess of $60 million a year by 2050. These are far from the only climate impacts that will take serious tolls on our state’s health and wealth. Extreme heat, drought, and unprecedentedly severe weather will add to the toll. We must be prepared and ensure that the responsibility for handling this cost is not passed on to our most vulnerable residents, but is instead paid by those who contributed the most to causing it.