Carbon pollution bill back on the table

Legislation that caps greenhouse gas emissions and creates a system for trading carbon credits could finally have a chance of progressing in 2018.


Lawmakers are holding joint committee meetings next week to discuss the Clean Energy Jobs Bill (SB1070).

The bill calls for the creation of a market-based system for capping and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from sources that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year. Approximately 100 emitters in Oregon would be covered by the cap-and-trade system, which would start in 2021.

Crucially, the bill requires Oregon’s carbon trading system to link with market-based programs in other states and countries. Opponents of carbon legislation argue Oregon should not act alone in forming a cap-and-trade system because of the risk of businesses moving to jurisdictions without a cap.

California is the only economy-wide carbon trading system that exists in the U.S.

The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario are the only other jurisdictions in North America that have carbon trading programs that link with California’s.

Previous iterations of carbon legislation in Oregon, including a carbon tax, have failed to make much headway.

Last year, various bills to curb the state’s greenhouse gas emissions went nowhere after lawmakers prioritized other legislation, such as the state’s transportation package.

Lack of unity among the business community has also stalled progress.

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Supporters of carbon legislation are hopeful lawmakers will advance a bill in 2018.

Renew Oregon, a recently formed coalition of businesses and nonprofits, is leading the charge for the bill’s passage. Brad Reed, communications director for the coalition, said the organization is pushing for carbon allowance auction proceeds to be invested in disadvantaged communities.

Under the proposed program, carbon allowance auctions are expected to raise $700 million a year, said Reed.      

Support from the governor, Kate Brown, will be crucial to the bill’s passage. Brown has not been a strong voice in pushing carbon legislation forward, but she did tell a gathering of environmental groups in Portland in July that she supports the passage of carbon legislation in 2018.

After President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord in June, Governor Brown signed Oregon up as a member of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

Governors Jerry Brown of California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Andrew Cuomo of New York, formed the alliance in response the federal government’s withdrawal from the international climate pact.

Brown is also attending the UN ‘s Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bonn, Germany, in November.

World leaders will gather to discuss implementation of the Paris climate accord. Brown was invited to the meeting along with governors Inslee and Jerry Brown by Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreque Bainimarama, whose country is hosting the convention.

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A sticking point to the passage of Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs Bill will be the lack of unified support among Oregon’s business community.

The state’s newly formed leading business alliance, Oregon Business & Industry, has not lent support to a cap-and-trade system.

This lack of support prompted the formation of a splinter group, the Oregon Business Alliance For Climate, which supports carbon pricing.

Can the two sides compromise on a bill?  2018 may just be the year this happens.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore is the research editor for Oregon Business magazine.

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