A Little History:
Addressing greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon dates back at least as far as 2007 when House Bill 3543 was signed into law by Governor Kulongoski. This bill established purely voluntary GHG emissions reduction goals as follows:
- By 2010, arrest the growth of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions and begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- By 2020, achieve greenhouse gas levels that are 10% below 1990 levels.
- By 2050, achieve greenhouse gas levels that are at least 75% below 1990 levels.
- Established Oregon Global Warming Coalition (OGWC – supporting achievement of the goals) & Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI – housed at OSU to conduct Climate Research in the PNW).
- Authorized OGWC to examine cap and trade.
These goals can be seen in Oregon Statute 468A.205
Unfortunately, as the Oregon Global Warming Commission has repeatedly reported (2015 and 2017), in its biennial summaries, the state is not on a trajectory to achieve these goals. That voluntary measures simply do not work is hardly surprising since economic motives demand that industry take the most cost effective route with its pollution by-products and pump them into our air or water (as the case may be) to avoid the cost of cleaning up their waste. Externalizing these costs, as it is called, is a reasonable economic decision when this is allowed by law. But the electorate does not have to allow this to continue.
In 2013, a bill was passed that resulted in a study undertaken by the Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University of the impact of taxing emissions. This report indicated that a $60 per ton fee on GHG emissions, combined with the voluntary measures promoted by OGWC would not achieve the stipulated (HB3543 2007) reduction goals. Additionally, that report modeled the impact of GHG fees up to $150 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, and concluded that even a fee of that magnitude would not achieve those (HB3543 2007) goals. The message is that voluntary measures, even combined with a huge emissions fee, are unlikely to achieve the 2007 goals.
An additional problem associated with a GHG emissions fee is that any bill introduced into the Oregon Legislature that generates income to the Treasury must be approved by a 3/5ths majority – a huge hurdle indeed.
2015 & 2016
During these sessions, bills were introduced – but failed (for various reasons) to achieve passage.
In 2015 the Climate Stability and Justice Bill (HB3470) passed out of the House Energy and Environment Committee but was stranded in the Joint Senate House Ways and Means Committee as the session ended. This genuine comprehensive GHG emissions reduction bill identified caps to emissions but assigned rule-making to the Department of Environmental Quality so did not specify exactly how the cap would be achieved – though the expectation was that the procedure would involve issuance of allowances/permits to pollute and corporations would bid for those allowances. The targets were entities responsible for 25,000 or more tons of CO2e emissions. The justice component of the bill involved the requirement that social justice issues would be addressed in the mechanism established for expenditure of the revenues generated, so long as projects contributed to GHG emissions reductions.
In 2016, our vehicle was the Healthy Climate Bill (SB1574). Similar to HB3470 from 2015, this bill differed in that rather than assigning rule-making to DEQ, much of that was embedded in the bill itself. This bill emerged from the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee but again stalled in the Joint Ways and Means Committee. Since 2016 was a short session, there was little room for error, and thus the bill died as the session ended.
Clean Energy Jobs 2017
During late summer/fall 2016, a coalition of Portland based environmental/climate groups, grassroots climate groups, representatives for social justice/equity, and labor started meeting to consider shared concerns and interests and develop a comprehensive GHG emissions reduction approach for 2017. The impetus for these meetings and discussions was recognition that – to be successful and to be just – any bill supported would have to acknowledge two critical components: (a) that disadvantaged communities already suffer excessively from the impact of global warming / climate change and also – without due recognition to their reality – could suffer excessively at the hands of proposed remedies, and (b) that workers dislocated by the GHG emissions reductions programs need special assistance to compensate for that dislocation.
From these meetings, a set of principles were developed by which proposed legislation would be measured. Our expectation was to support bills in relation to how well they satisfied these principles.
In 2015 six GHG bills were introduced. Among these were tax/fee bills and cap bills. Some were not comprehensive GHG emissions reduction bills but focused solely and inadequately on carbon (carbon dioxide) from the combustion of fossil fuels – thus nitrous oxide, methane (a serious problem resulting from natural gas leakage) and other gases were ignored. Such bills effectively comprise natural gas promotion bills and could result in greater ,rather than, less global warming.
From our efforts over the last few sessions, one piece of advice we have received repeatedly is that we need to coalesce behind a single bill.
Although no single bill has yet been anointed with our support, SB557 (see below) seems to be the most promising. Developed from the 2016 Healthy Climate Bill, this meets most of the principles, but as yet fails adequately to assure that policies keep current with best available science.