Although Clean Energy Jobs would be a statewide policy — and climate change is a global issue — it’s important to look at how the proposed bill would specifically affect us in Eugene.
With Eugene’s Climate Recovery Ordinance, a set of goals that the city is required to meet in order to make Eugene a more environmentally friendly place, and other pushes for environmentalism locally, many are excited for the possibility of the bill’s passing and the potential to make Oregon a greener state.
Many environmentalists, like members of local group 350 Eugene, say the bill would have positive effects on the city along with the work that’s already being done.
350 Eugene is a local affiliate of a national organization based on raising awareness around climate change. Composed of volunteers, 350 Eugene is focused on creating global movements in our backyard — offing fossil fuels, supporting carbon reduction, watchdogging and education, among other goals.
“We’re at about 411 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere now and 350, our name, is the upper limit of a sustainable system for the world,” 350 Eugene member Linda Heyl says. “So we have to get back to 350.”
Heyl is one of the core campaign strategizers for 350 Eugene. The group has four campaigns, each working on different environmental issues.
Some of what 350 Eugene does, Heyl says, is creating public awareness for local environmental happenings such as the city’s Climate Recovery Ordinance and Climate Action Plan.
The Climate Recovery Ordinance sets goals for city operations to be “carbon neutral” by 2020, cut community fossil fuel use in half by 2030 and get Eugene’s emissions to that 350 parts per million level by 2100, according to the city’s website.
The Climate Action Plan lays out ways the city can accomplish those goals.
Linda Kelley is a member of 350 Eugene’s legislative campaign group called Cap The Gases, a group that does tabling events, works with local legislators and provides outreach and education in order to get people involved with climate action. She says Clean Energy Jobs would positively affect the city’s climate plans.
“Having the statewide cap and invest will actually really help us in Eugene with its Climate Recovery Ordinance and the Climate Action Plan because having that in place will make more monies available for the kinds of things that the city is committed to and needs to do to move forward,” Kelley says.
Clean Energy Jobs would cap climate pollution at 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year and fine emitters who go over that cap. Money produced could help Eugene locally in a variety of ways, Kelley says.
She says the money could go to weatherization and energy efficiency both for residential dwellings and small businesses. This could particularly be helpful to low-income households. “So basically it’s bringing money into that whole arena. And that could be in the form of incentives or rebates. So that’s a piece that could be applied locally,” Kelley says.
She also says money from that cap and invest system could go towards improving transportation options. That could potentially look like more electric charging stations and even potentially “better rebates on hybrid or electric vehicles,” she says.
Some worry that Clean Energy Jobs will impose that cap and invest system on local small to moderately sized businesses, but Kelley says that cap would be “just for very big operations.”
According to the Department of Environmental Quality’s 2016 Greenhouse Gas Facility Emissions report, the bill would affect only eight companies in Lane County. This includes large facilities like International Paper (603,778 tons of total emissions in 2016) and other facilities like sawmills and landfills.
“The reality is, even in Lane County, it’s a small amount, for better or for worse, of the industries that would even be subject to the cap,” Kelley says.
While the possibility of the Clean Energy Jobs as a bill in the Legislature is still up in the air, 350 Eugene has been striving to make the community greener. Along with other projects, the group is continuing to work on issues like resisting the Jordan Cove Energy Project, a natural gas pipeline and export facility planned in Coos Bay, through its Oregon Fracked Gas Resistance campaign. It’s also working with EWEB to move Eugene towards electricity based fully off of renewable sources.
Working towards making the climate stable is a necessity, 350’s Heyl says.
“We want to emphasize that what we’re talking about, climate stability, is achievable. It’s not easy; it’s not cheap; that’s okay. It’s doable,” she says. “And we essentially have no choice. There’s no alternative.”
For more on Clean Energy Jobs, read our story on it in this issue. For more information about 350 Eugene, visit world.350.org/eugene.