When the Oregon legislature convenes in February, it will be presented with a serious legislative proposal for capping carbon and pricing carbon pollution, and investing in cutting emissions and creating a clean energy economy. The program would allow the state to join the California, Quebec and Ontario carbon market and reap the rewards from cutting emissions and encouraging innovation. The legislation represents an enormous opportunity for Oregon to lead, improve public health and spur innovation. The state should seize it.
Oregon has been considering carbon pollution legislation for well over a decade, and has already adopted policies to put it among the group of states leading the way on clean energy: Oregon already has a clean fuels standard, a 50% renewable energy standard, it is phasing out the use of coal power for electricity; it has been a national leader in energy efficiency investment and achievement for more than thirty years.
These policies ensure that the glide path for emissions reductions in Oregon should be steady, and the costs of adopting a cap should be low. An economy wide cap will provide a meaningful backstop, and send a long-term signal to businesses and government to invest in technology and infrastructure to keep cutting emissions.
This fall, I participated in the legislative working groups convened by Senator Dembrow and Representative Helm, the authors of the legislation. As a longtime observer of state carbon policies, including in California, I can report that the working groups spurred robust discussion and debate and showed the sophistication and understanding of the key policy issues in adopting carbon policy. Oregon’s legislature has deliberated carbon legislation for longer, and understands the issues and impacts better than California did when it passed AB32. Coming out of that process, the authors have released proposed changes, including some options to decide between in finalizing the legislation. Legislators will need to look carefully at these options to ensure the program can link with the regional carbon market.
There is clearly political will to act: Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt do not represent Oregon’s values. Pruitt is doing everything he can to dismantle EPA and has no intention of making good on the federal government’s authority and responsibility to cut carbon pollution. While I’m confident NRDC and our allies will beat back most of the worst ideas from Pruitt and his cronies, Oregonians can’t afford to wait.
Governor Kate Brown supports passing a carbon cap and invest bill in 2018. She joined a delegation of Governors at the recent international climate conference in Bonn, Germany to highlight her state’s efforts.
Oregon’s efforts to combat climate change are the next big indication of state and local governments taking the lead on climate. A small state can make a big difference in keeping up momentum.
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