What would I-1631's carbon fee cost you?

Washington voters will decide whether to be the first state to charge companies for pollution.

As the planet warms from climate change, supporters of Initiative 1631 promise a bold approach.

The Washington ballot measure would impose a per-ton fee on carbon emissions from many of the state's big polluters and direct that money to invest in clean energy.

The fee is designed to hit polluting businesses, but how much would it cost you?

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"It would cost Washington families $440 a year in the first year alone and what you have to remember is that is a permanent, escalating tax so that will go up each and every year," said Dana Bieber, spokesperson for the no campaign.

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The $440 figure she cited comes from a report by NERA Economic Consulting prepared for the no campaign.

Bieber called NERA a "widely credited source."

Becky Kelley of the Washington Environmental Council, which supports I-1631, disagrees.

"The NERA report is bogus," Kelley said.

"The oil industry hired NERA to put out this report and those are the same folks who worked for big tobacco and told us smoking was good for us."

The Washington State Budget & Policy Center, which supports I-1631, estimates it would cost households, at most, $159 the first year.

With such wide ranging estimates, KIRO 7 reached out to Roberton Williams, a professor at the University of Maryland and senior fellow at Resources for the Future, an independent research group.

"I've done a back-of-the envelope sanity check on the other numbers that's in the ballpark of $300 per household per year at the rate that it's starting at," Williams said.

Williams said household cost estimates vary based on how much someone drives a gas car and how big their home is to heat.

Seattle electric customers are expected to not see a direct financial hit because City Light's power comes largely from zero-carbon sources like hydro dams.

But Puget Sound Energy still gets a big chunk of its power from natural gas and coal.

PSE estimates its electric customers would pay about $3.75 more per month in 2020, rising to about $5.50 more per month in 2025.

PSE says its residential natural gas customers would pay about $5.33 more per month in 2020 and $9.42 more in 2025.

Williams says national carbon tax modeling shows other kinds of higher prices.

"The truck going to the grocery store pays tax on the diesel fuel and your grocery prices go up and stuff like that," Williams said.

Williams said the biggest economic impact of 1631 will come from how the money is spent.

An appointed board will be tasked with investing in projects that fight climate change, and helping low-income people offset the carbon fee but those spending details are not clear yet.

"Those pieces are difficult to predict if you don't know what the spending is, you can't analyze the spending," Williams said.

The carbon fee is designed to escalate but supporters say over time, energy costs will go down as consumers get more green choices.

There's a lot of money in this race.

Supporters have raised $15 million.

Opponents have raised $31 million, with oil and gas companies the biggest contributors.