Oregon cap-and-trade bill proclaimed dead; some have doubts

June 26, 2019

Keith Goble


The saga over cap and trade at the Oregon statehouse may be settled. Or it could be far from over.

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney announced on Tuesday, June 25, the bill to set statewide greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals was dead. Speaking on the Senate floor, the chamber’s leading Democrat said despite his party’s majority rule there are not enough favorable votes to pass the bill.

Despite the claim from Courtney, Senate Republicans opted not to return back to the capitol. GOP legislators in the chamber left the state last week to prevent their Democratic counterparts from moving forward with the cap-and-trade bill.

Instead, Republicans are asking for clarification from the chamber’s leading Democrat about his remarks.

“My caucus and I intend to remain out of state,” Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, said in a prepared statement. “We are working for our constituents and all Oregonians against House Bill 2020, the devastating gas and emissions tax.”

The House voted 36-24 on June 17 to advance the cap-and-trade bill. Before HB2020 can move to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk for her expected signature, the Senate must first take up the matter for a final vote.

In an effort to deny Senate Democrats the quorum necessary to conduct business, Senate Republicans scattered in the hours before a scheduled vote last week.

In response, Gov. Brown deployed the Oregon State Police to search for the missing members and return them to Salem so a vote can take place.

The legislation caps greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, Oregon companies that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon annually would be regulated.

A market would also be created for companies to buy and sell allowances that permit them to emit a specific amount of carbon dioxide.

The cap-and-trade program would begin in 2021 with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Officials on both sides of the issue acknowledge that cap and trade would not significantly reduce emissions. Majority Democrats, however, say California-style emission regulations is a big step toward slowing down climate change.

Minority Republicans say the plan would cost jobs, including some in the trucking industry, and hurt rural economies. They cite higher fuel prices and businesses that are likely to leave the state.

“This has been a dark week for the integrity of the Legislature,” House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, posted on social media. “(The Senate Republicans) walkout has come at immense cost to our institution and potentially the planet.”

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Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.