April 5, 2016
Filed under ASWC Unpacked
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As heralded in press releases, the Pioneer (new name TBD), and this selfsame blog, upon the passage of Act SAS16.2, ASWC’s Senate became the first US college to self-impose a carbon tax, a system that changes how students request funding from the Travel and Student Development Fund (T+SD) to account for carbon emissions. Starting next year, requesting parties will calculate an additional “tax” based on the mode and distance of their travel and include it in their application. Students themselves do not pay any money; rather, the legislation changes the way that ASWC allocates its budget. At the end of the academic year, the accrued tax money will be added to the Green Fund, which provides financial support for student sustainability projects.
At the February 7th Senate meeting, some discussion arose regarding the educational aspects of the carbon tax. Senator Anna VonClemm suggested that the Finance committee directly ask requesting parties about how the carbon emission calculation affected their application process. Hupper agreed, noting that the act seeks to remind the Whitman community about the environmental impacts of transportation.
While the tax may, admittedly, produce an effect more symbolic than revolutionary, it remains a significant landmark in sustainability at Whitman. Hupper hopes its passage demonstrates “that Whitman, unlike its peer institutions that see sustainability as a surface-level checklist of maintenance fixes, pursues innovative initiatives” to lead the national undergraduate community in adopting carbon pricing, a practice currently receiving national attention as well.
Beyond the scope of ASWC, many companies, including Exxon Mobil support the implementation of a large-scale carbon tax. Congresspeople, including former Representative John Dingell (D, MI) and former Senator Christopher Dodd (D, CT), have pushed for the tax, alongside organizations including the Carbon Tax Center. However, given the Supreme Court’s recent staying of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, it seems unlikely that such legislation will gain traction in the near future.