State Senate Takes on Climate Change

Clean Energy Jobs bill would establish cap and price limits on greenhouse gases

While Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed carbon tax in Washington has been making headlines, here in Oregon a cap and price climate bill is gaining traction — and causing some controversy — in the state Legislature’s short session.

Senate Bill 1507, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, sets forth a policy to cap and price climate pollution from the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in Oregon. It would reinvest the proceeds into the state’s clean-energy economy to create jobs and improve the climate.

Brad Reed of the clean energy advocacy coalition Renew Oregon says the bill would set a cap on those who emit 25,000 or more tons of greenhouse gases per year. Large polluters would purchase a “permit allowance for every ton of greenhouse gas emissions they put out, and every year that pool goes down,” until 2050.

According to a list compiled by the state Department of Environmental Quality in 2016, the largest emitters in Lane County included International Paper and the county’s Short Mountain Landfill.

The Clean Energy Jobs Bill has been endorsed by the Portland Timbers and Nike and lauded by Gov. Kate Brown. Locally, EWEB, in its comments on the bill, says that “economy-wide carbon pricing, achieved through a cap and trade proposal that can also be linked to other states, will produce the least-cost path to meeting Oregon’s GHG reduction goals.”

The cap and price bill would link Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions trading programs to California and parts of Canada through the nonprofit Western Climate Initiative.

Senate President Peter Courtney and Majority Leader Ginny Burdick indicated at an Associated Press legislative session preview in January that they felt the bill needed more work and shouldn’t be passed in the 2018 short session.

Courtney has not responded to EW’s request for further comment.

“We’ve heard people say it’s not ready; it’s brand new, we categorically disagree with that,” Reed says.

Versions of the bill have been brought up and worked on for almost a decade, he says, and after a version of the bill didn’t pass in last year’s regular session, members of the Senate Committee On Environment and Natural Resources continued to work on the bill.

“National experts have been advising our campaign,” Reed says. “They say they have haven’t seen a cap and invest policy as detailed as ours.”

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a Democrat representing south Lane and north Douglas counties, is a member of the natural resources committee. He says the bill “definitely needs to go forward.”

Prozanski says there seems to be a policy in the Legislature of not taking something to the floor for a vote “unless it has a 100 percent chance of passing.” But, he says, with gridlock on the federal level on the issue of climate change, “it’s time for states to move forward.” Prozanski wants to see the democratic process carried out. “Issues of major importance should be going to the floor to see what is supported or not supported,” he says.

The 2017 version of the Clean Energy Jobs Bill died in committee without going to the full House or Senate for a vote.