How Carbon Pricing in Hawaii Could Become Law this Session (and how you can help)

A carbon pollution pricing bill (Senate Bill 3150) that is widely supported by key legislators and executive officials, is on the move in Hawaii. The bill, which initially prices carbon at $40 per ton, will generate millions in revenue for a slew of initiatives and provide a tax credit to low- and middle-income residents. 

I only have 30 seconds — what does the bill do? 

The carbon pollution pricing bill (SB 3150): 

  • Amends the environmental response, energy and food security tax to address carbon emissions,
  • Increases the tax rate to set a price of $40 per metric ton of carbon emissions in 2021,
  • Increases the tax rate incrementally so that by 2030, the tax rate will equal $80 per carbon ton, 
  • Establishes a refundable tax credit for people earning 60% or less of the area’s median income. 


Where does SB 3150 currently stand? 

Last week, the bill, entitled “An Act Relating to Taxation,” passed the Senate Committees for Agriculture and Environment (4-1) and Energy, Economic Development and Tourism (5-1), pushing carbon pollution pricing one step closer to reality. 

Now, the bill, introduced by Senators Karl Roads (D), Stanley Chang (D), Gil Keith-Agaran (D), Russel Ruderman (D), and Maile Shimabukuro (D), is being heard internally by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. If it passes Ways and Means this week, it will move to the Senate floor for a vote. Given that carbon pricing passed the Hawaii Senate with unanimous support last session, there’s strong reason to believe that a more refined bill is likely to see favorable results. On the House side, a companion bill (HB 2654) was introduced by Speaker Scott Saiki (D); Saiki’s endorsement of the proposal signals the bill could move swiftly through the House. 


How does the refundable tax credit work? 

The bill was amended last week to include a refundable tax credit that mitigates the effect of the fee on lower-income taxpayers. 

For taxpayers filing as single, the tax credit is determined by which bracket in the following table a taxpayer’s gross annual income falls within. 

  • Between $50,000 and $60,000 → $50 credit
  • Between $40,000 and $50,000 → $100 credit
  • Between $30,000 and $40,000 → $150 credit
  • Between $20,000 and $30,000 → $200 credit
  • Less than $20,000 → $250 credit 


For taxpayers filing as head of household, married but filing separately, or married filing jointly, the applicable tax credit is determined by which bracket in the following table a taxpayer’s gross annual household income falls within: 

  • Between $60,000 and $75,000 → $100 credit
  • Between $40,000 and $60,000 → $200 credit
  • Between $30,000 and $40,000 → $300 credit
  • Between $20,000 and $30,000 → $400 credit
  • Less than $20,000 → $500 


How will the bill take into account the state’s ongoing carbon pricing study?

The University of Hawaii is in the midst of studying the effects of carbon pricing on the state’s economy. Dr. Makena Coffman, the Director of the University’s Institute for Sustainability and Resilience (ISR), is overseeing the state’s carbon pricing study, which is set to be completed later this summer. SB 3150 will take this study into account — since the fee will not take effect until 2021, the legislature will have the opportunity to consider any revisions to the tax rates. The study can help inform the rates proposed in the bill, but ultimately will not change the fact that carbon pricing is a necessary component of the state’s climate policy toolkit.

Who supports carbon pollution pricing in Hawaii? 

The state government has long supported the notion of carbon pricing. Last year, Hawaii’s Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission firmly recommended that lawmakers enact carbon pricing, declaring that a “price on carbon is the most effective single action that will achieve Hawaii’s ambitious and necessary emissions reduction goals.” Hawaii was also the first state in the country to legally commit to a zero-emissions, carbon neutral economy by 2045. 

Key executive branch officials testified in favor of the legislation last week, including:


From the advocacy community, Blue Planet Foundation, Imua Alliance, Americans for Democratic Action, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, Citizens Climate Lobby, and several other groups testified in favor of the legislation. 

What You Can Do 

Now is the time to let the Senators on the Ways and Mean Committee know that Hawaii residents want to see polluters held accountable, and pass a price on carbon pollution. It’s imperative that the climate community acts swiftly and that concerned individuals let policymakers know that moving this bill for a Senate floor vote is a priority. 

Who Do I Call and What Do I Say? 

When you call your state Senator, say the following:

“Hi, my name is ___. I am a resident of (town) in (the senator’s name) district. I want to voice my strong support for Senate Bill 3150, the carbon fee/pricing bill, especially since the bill includes a refundable tax credit that helps low- and middle-income folks.

For additional talking points, you can read testimony that was submitted in favor of the legislation here

If you live in Senate Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, or 23, your Senator sits on the Ways and Means Committee, which means calling them will be particularly important. Even if they don’t sit on this committee, you can find your legislator here and call or email them this week to raise further awareness of this proposal in the state legislature. Provided that the bill passes Ways and Means, all legislators will vote on the bill shortly.  

Below is the contact information for Senators who sit on the Ways and Means Committee:

Chair, Donovan Dela Cruz (Senate District 22)

Vice Chair, Gilbert Keith-Agaran (Senate District 5):

Kalani English (Senate District 7): 

Breene Harimoto (Senate District 16): 

Lorraine Inouye (Senate District 4):

Kai Kahele (Senate District 1): 

Dru Mamo Kanuha (Senate District 3):

Michelle Kidani (Senate District 18):

Sharon Moriwaki (Senate District 12):

Gil Riviere (Senate District 23):

Maile S.L. Shimabukuro (Senate District 21): 

Brian Taniguchi (Senate District 11):

Kurt Fevella (Senate District 19):

Notable: Kurt Fevella is the only Republican who sits on the Committee, and previously voted against the bill. 

If you have any questions on the bill, or how to reach out to your Senator please email our State Carbon Pricing Network Manager, Noa Dalzell, at

Featured Image: Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash