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Montgomery County Council Passes Carbon Tax

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By Sabri Ben-Achour

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Council has become the first county in the nation to pass a carbon tax. The council voted 8 to 1 to pass the measure.

The tax is an attempt to put a price on carbon for major emitters like power plants. If carbon pollution costs money, the thinking goes, a polluter will produce less of it.

Councilmember Roger Berliner introduced the tax, he says, to make up for federal foot dragging on cap and trade.

"There's no question we'd be best served by a strong national regime, or a strong regional regime," he says. "Right now we have neither."

In Montgomery County, the tax would only apply to the Dickerson Coal Plant owned by Mirant Corporation.

John Shelk is president of the National Electric Power Supply Association. Both he and Mirant argue this tax will just shift demand for electricity elsewhere.

"The electricity will now come from out of state, from places that have less stringent air pollution standards than those that apply to the plant in Maryland," he says.

Mike Tidwell, with Chesapeake Climate Action Network, calls that fiction.

"There's no truth to that whatsoever," he says. "That's not how the grid works. Pepco buys very little, if any, electricity from the Dickerson plant."

The tax is not expected to raise prices for utility customers. The revenue will go toward funding green initiatives.

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