Oregon cap-and-trade plan meets opposition

February 26, 2020

Keith Goble

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The saga over cap and trade at the Oregon statehouse is rekindled.

The state already has in place a clean-fuels program that requires oil and gas distributors of most fuels sold in Oregon to lower their carbon content, or “intensity,” by 10% over 10 years.

Gov. Kate Brown and leading lawmakers in her party are once again pressing forward with plans to go further and set statewide greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

A similar effort in the Legislature last summer was quashed after the state’s minority party left town to avoid the quorum necessary to conduct business. The Democratic governor called on the Oregon State Police to search for the missing Republican lawmakers and return them to Salem for a vote on the cap-and-trade plan.

The effort was unsuccessful and the issue was sidelined until the 2020 regular session convened last month.

Cap-and-trade bill

The legislation causing consternation between the parties would cap greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, Oregon companies that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon annually would be regulated.

The Legislature’s budget committee this week voted largely along party lines to advance the bill to the Senate floor.

The bill, SB1530, would also create a market for companies to buy and sell allowances that allow them to emit a specific amount of carbon dioxide.

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The program would begin in 2022 with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Back and forth on cap and trade

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.

Instead of relying on legislators to make the final decision on the issue, Republicans say the public should get the final say.

“At least 24 counties and their local elected officials, representing nearly 2 million Oregonians, have adopted resolutions opposing cap and trade … but the super majority Democrat legislators are ignoring you by refusing to refer it to a vote,” Senate Republican leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. of Grants Pass said in prepared remarks.

Concerned about the almost certain path forward for the legislation, GOP lawmakers staged a walkout to prevent the quorum required to do business – and prevent a vote on the issue.

Democrats say the public has elected state lawmakers to represent them on issues that include cap and trade.

“This is not a game. Voters elected us to do our job,” stated House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland. “The members who refuse to show up and do their jobs are saying to a large majority of Oregonians: your vote doesn’t matter.”

Gov. Brown referred to the walkout as a “sad moment for Oregon.”

Time is running out to get a deal done. The Legislature must wrap up their regular business by March 8.

Truckers and others speaks out

The public did get an opportunity to provide comment on SB1530 during a recent Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee work session. Additionally, the public submitted testimony during other work sessions.

Multiple individuals and representatives from trucking operations were among those to provide testimony in opposition of the bill.

“I am a small-business owner that already operates on a very small profit margin,” wrote Kirk Mitchell of KT Mitchell Trucking Co., Toledo, Ore. “With the increased CAT tax to now contend with, another tax on our business will likely shut us down.”

Brad Van Dyke of George Van Dyke Trucking in Tangent, Ore., called on legislators to let voters decide the issue.

“Legislation that will impact our everyday lives should always be put to a vote by the people of the state of Oregon,” Van Dyke wrote.

More Land Line coverage of news from Oregon is available.

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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.