Oregon cap-and-trade plan thwarted, temporarily

March 10, 2020

Keith Goble

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Opponents of cap-and-trade legislation in Oregon were successful in bleeding the clock on the regular session to prevent passage of the controversial bill. In response, Gov. Kate Brown said she will take executive action to implement new rules on greenhouse gas emissions.

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.

Nevertheless, the Democratic governor and leading lawmakers in her party have continued to press forward with plans to go further and set statewide greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

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

The now failed cap-and-trade legislation, SB1530, also called for creating a market for companies to buy and sell allowances that permit them to emit a specific amount of carbon dioxide.

The program has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

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 – and avoid a vote on the cap-and-trade issue.

GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate late last month once again left the capitol for multiple days to deny Democrats the two-thirds majority needed for a quorum.

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Next steps

Following the end of the regular session on Friday, March 6, Gov. Brown released a statement about what to expect in the weeks ahead on the issue.

“I have always been clear that a legislative solution was my preferred path to tackle the impacts of climate change,” Brown said. “However, I will not back down. In the coming days, I will be taking executive action to lower our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. of Grants Pass maintains that voters need to be able to decide on cap and trade.

Back and forth on issue

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.

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

H3: 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 cap-and-trade bill. Among the concerns voiced by truckers is adding another tax on business.

Additionally, some critics asked for legislators to let voters have the final say on the issue.

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

Legal challenge likely

Although action by the governor to bypass the Legislature to get a climate deal done is “imminent,” the issue is far from resolved.

Opponents say they will challenge in court any action by the governor.

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.