STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Oregon Democrats advance sweeping climate policy

Oregon is on the precipice of becoming the second state after California to adopt a cap-and-trade program, a market-based approach to lowering the greenhouse gas emissions behind global warming.

Posted: Jun 17, 2019 11:03 AM
Updated: Jun 17, 2019 11:06 AM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon is on the precipice of becoming the second state after California to adopt a cap-and-trade program, a market-based approach to lowering the greenhouse gas emissions behind global warming.

Supporters call it the United States' most progressive climate policy, saying it not only cuts emissions but invests in transitioning the state economy and infrastructure to better prepare for more intense weather events as climate change worsens.

"We have an opportunity to invest a substantial amount into low-income communities off the backs of the 100 or so major polluters that caused this problem," said Shilpa Joshi, with the lobbying group Renew Oregon. Joshi has spent years working with dozens of organizations around the state to help shape the final legislation.

Cap and trade has been a top priority this year for Oregon's majority Democrats, and Gov. Kate Brown has said she would sign the measure, noting in a statement that "Oregon can be the log that breaks the jam nationally" on climate policy.

Though the program's approval is shaping up to be a sure bet, a decade's worth of baggage from California's cap-and-trade program has fractured support for the policy among environmental groups. Some question whether Oregon can truly meet its lofty emission goals and keep its promise to prioritize investments in low-income communities and Native American tribes' ability to prepare for a changing climate.

The division underscores a larger fight on the left over how to best tackle climate change, which scientists warn poses a global existential threat. Some progressives have balked at any solutions less than those outlined in the Green New Deal, a sweeping climate platform from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez that calls for the decarbonization of nearly every industry.

"Strong climate policy requires steep regulations on business and a total transformation of our current infrastructure," said Shawn Fleek with OPAL Environmental Justice, one of the main organizations on the left against the bill. "Cap and trade does none of that. Just like in California, Oregon's bill has instead turned into a Frankenstein's monster in handouts to industry."

Under a cap-and-trade program, the state puts an overall limit on emissions and auctions off pollution permits or "allowances" for each ton of carbon industries plan to emit. Only the largest polluters are targeted, and the idea is that as the emissions limit becomes stricter over time, it will be in industries' financial interest to switch to green technology. Oregon's program would begin in 2021, and the state wants to reduce emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Most of the money raised — estimated to total $550 million in the first year — would be used to fund a sweeping progressive platform that encourages further emission cuts and prioritizes investments in low-income and tribal communities' ability to respond to climate change.

"We're seeing the effects of climate really hammer people who can least afford it," said Rep. Karin Power, a Democrat from Milwaukie and one of two key lawmakers behind the bill.

The proposal also contains a $10 million investment to protect workers adversely affected by climate change policy, as some in transportation or manufacturing sector could face layoffs. The legislation provides unemployment benefits and pathways to clean energy jobs that, under the law, must provide competitive wages and benefits.

It's provisions like these that make the changes some of the country's most progressive, Joshi said.

"We are showing other states that it's not an impossible dream to hold big polluters accountable and use the funds to invest in clean energy and in our most vulnerable communities," she said.

Detractors on the left note Oregon's program, like California's, offers concessions to nearly every industry to dampen the potential financial impact. For the program's first few years, the state will cover a majority of pollution allowances for some industries, including natural gas and utilities companies. The fossil fuel industry is essentially the only one on the hook for paying the full price.

The plan gets mixed reviews from industries. While some, including Nike and Uber, have come out in favor of cap and trade, others from the logging and agricultural sector say it will lead to increased fuel prices, mass layoffs and shuttered businesses.

Stimson Lumber, west of Portland, laid off 60 sawmill workers in anticipation of cap and trade and other new taxes pursued by Democrats. CEO Andrew Miller said in a statement that rural and agricultural communities are paying the price for "Oregon's assault on businesses."

And opponents from both parties note cap and trade likely won't radically reduce emissions. While California's emissions have noticeably dropped since the state implemented its program less than a decade ago, only 20% of those reductions can be tied to cap and trade.

Dallas Burtraw, an economist with the think tank Resources for the Future who advises California's cap-and-trade program, said cap and trade is still the most efficient way to reduce emissions. High pricing is a powerful motivator in encouraging businesses to invest in green technology, something Burtraw said will set Oregon apart and possibly provide an economic boost.

California's program has added 2 million jobs and grown its GDP by $700 billion since taking effect in 2012. The nine northeastern states with a more limited cap-and-trade program saw $1.4 billion in net economic benefits and 14,500 new jobs from 2015 to 2017, according to a report from Analysis Group.

"These programs can cut emissions all while providing a more stable business environment that will attract new investors," Burtraw said.

For Sen. Michael Dembrow, the other main lawmaker behind Oregon's bill, the program is less about solving the global climate crisis and more about raising the money needed to prepare for a heating planet's worst effects.

"This is a worldwide problem, and if we hit businesses too hard with regulations, they'll simply move out of Oregon and pollute at the same rates somewhere else," the Portland Democrat said. "That solves nothing."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 9636

Reported Deaths: 209
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah236169
Marion159547
Washington149120
Clackamas79524
Umatilla6674
Union3551
Lincoln3452
Deschutes2010
Lane1963
Malheur1601
Linn1569
Polk15412
Jackson1400
Yamhill1328
Jefferson1310
Klamath1251
Benton915
Hood River880
Wasco851
Morrow821
Clatsop490
Douglas450
Josephine441
Coos420
Columbia350
Lake200
Tillamook130
Crook120
Wallowa100
Curry80
Baker40
Sherman20
Grant10
Harney10
Gilliam00
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 250514

Reported Deaths: 6315
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1078063457
Riverside19450479
Orange15778360
San Diego15696387
San Bernardino13676269
Imperial6979105
Alameda6472140
Fresno562677
Kern510080
Santa Clara4849160
Tulare4627136
San Joaquin447455
San Francisco377650
Sacramento355969
San Mateo3441108
Contra Costa343279
Santa Barbara326129
Ventura324047
Marin271019
Kings258332
Stanislaus239144
Monterey179115
Solano147625
Merced127211
Sonoma126710
Placer78611
San Luis Obispo7012
Yolo58324
Madera5665
Santa Cruz4173
Napa3444
San Benito2572
Lassen2340
Butte2063
El Dorado2060
Sutter2063
Humboldt1444
Shasta1354
Nevada1231
Glenn1220
Yuba1031
Tehama881
Lake850
Mendocino850
Colusa700
Calaveras530
Del Norte511
Tuolumne430
Mono411
Inyo331
Siskiyou310
Mariposa271
Amador260
Plumas110
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 84°
Brookings
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 64°
Crater Lake
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 77°
Grants Pass
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 84°
Klamath Falls
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 77°
Sunny weather continues Sunday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events