Oregon House passes cap-and-trade bill, Republicans call it 'war on workers'

A bill aimed at curtailing greenhouse gas emissions passed along party lines as House Republicans voiced outspoken opposition.

Posted: Jun 18, 2019 11:29 AM
Updated: Jun 18, 2019 11:37 AM

SALEM, Ore. — A bill aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions in the state of Oregon through a "cap-and-trade" system passed the House of Representatives on Monday in a party line vote.

House Bill 2020 passed with 36 Democrats voting in favor and 24 Republicans against.

“The climate crisis is a constant threat to our way of life, a threat that would make the planet, as we know it, uninhabitable,” said Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie), a chief architect of the legislation. “We have faced great challenges before and come out stronger for them. We can’t delay any longer. If we do, we will have to face future generations and explain to them our inaction, even with all we knew. Today, we can show that economy-wide programs to transition from fossil fuels toward a clean, renewable future are possible.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, characterized the bill as potentially disastrous for Oregon workers and their families. Despite acknowledging the validity of warnings from the climate science community, GOP lawmakers stressed that Oregon shouldn't have to foot the bill for efforts to curb greenhouse gasses.

“This is the most destructive piece of legislation to ever come through the House of Representatives,” said House Republican Leader Rep. Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass). “Workers will tremendously suffer under Cap and Trade. Thousands of jobs will be lost. Wages will decline, gas prices will climb, and family budgets will be strained. Climate change is a global problem, not an Oregon problem. Oregon’s workers should not be punished for the reckless environmental policies of China and India.”

READ: Truckers and loggers protest cap-and-trade bill, saying it will hurt Oregon's industries.

In a separate statement, Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis (R-Albany) indicated that she supported the concept of the bill, but not the execution.

“This whole session, as part of the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, I have worked tirelessly on this bill to try to minimize the harmful impacts on working families while maximizing greenhouse gas reductions," Rept. Boshart said. "Unfortunately, all the effort has been for nothing.”

Under the bill, greenhouse gas emissions would be capped each year to achieve at least 45 percent below 1990 emission levels by 2035 and at least 80 percent below 1990 emission levels by 2050. In order to achieve those reductions, the state would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions cap each year, and auction allowances for companies to meet their compliance obligation.

Democrats said that polluters would be required to buy an allowance for each ton of greenhouse gases emitted, with the allowances going down over time. Businesses could choose to continue purchasing allowances, reduce their emissions through technological innovation, or both.

Revenue raised by the cap-and-trade program would then be invested in rural communities and green programs, according to supporters.

“For regions already experiencing climate change, these investments can’t come soon enough,” said Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland). “In my part of the state, we need money for forest management projects that will sequester carbon as we prevent and suppress wildfires. As droughts become more frequent and temperatures continue to rise, we need to upgrade and protect our drinking water and irrigation systems. And we need support from the state to buttress and diversify an economy that is exceedingly vulnerable to the impacts of smoke and fire.”

House Bill 2020 now goes on to the Senate, where it faces a potentially greater challenge.

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