Dear Senate President Courtney and Senate Minority Leader Winters:

Salem residents should take pride in the fact that our state’s two state Senate leaders also represent us and have done so very ably for so many years. You have both distinguished yourselves by collaboratively serving the people of Salem and working together to advance the long-term interests of the state on innumerable occasions.

We call upon you to once again do the same during the 2018 legislative session by supporting a Clean Energy Jobs Bill. 

As you know, environmental pollution issues have often taken a back seat to other concerns which may seem more immediately pressing. A proposal to cap carbon emissions and make large carbon polluters pay a price for their pollution has been advanced during the last several legislative sessions only to be sidetracked by other immediate priorities that required your attention.  There will certainly be more issues demanding your immediate attention this session, as with all sessions. But, it’s kind of like ignoring your doctor’s advice on an advancing medical condition because you simply feel too busy with other life issues — at some point neglect can become dangerous. We’ve reached this point with carbon pollution. 

Scientists have been telling us for years that human-caused carbon pollution adds a heat-trapping blanket to our atmosphere. Some carbon in the atmosphere is natural.  Scientists say that we averaged about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the pre-industrial human past, and that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide is the highest level  in which we can safely thrive over the long run.  We’ve ignored their advice. We passed the global 350 threshold around 1990. We’re now over 400. 

And what “symptoms” have we experienced as the carbon level gradually increased?  Higher average global temperatures with more extremely hot days and fewer cold days. More and longer drought. More widespread wildfires. More catastrophic storms and flooding. Too often, we comment that the weather is behaving strangely.  It is.

It’s time to listen to the climate scientists and to act. The time for procrastination on the issue of climate change is long past. That’s where you two come in.

The Legislature has taken steps over the last few sessions to prepare us for this day. In 2016 it directed the state DEQ to prepare a comprehensive study laying out how a state carbon fee and investment plan would reduce Oregon’s carbon pollution while raising money to help our transition to a greener economy. Legislative committees held hearings during the 2017 session so that it could receive input from experts, citizens, and stakeholders, holding over a dozen work sessions in the last few months to finalize a plan. The hard work preparing for major legislation is done.

Now it’s time for you two to lead the legislature in enacting a Clean Energy Jobs Bill. You have both demonstrated far-sighted leadership in the legislature. A Clean Energy Jobs Bill deserves to be part of your legacy. Please don’t be distracted by other issues. Don’t listen to those who will say the issue hasn’t been properly worked up and considered. It has. It’s time to lead. Pass a Clean Energy Jobs Bill now. 

Salem Weekly Editorial Board

 

 

_________________________________________________________

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CLEAN ENERGY JOBS BILL

The most important issue that will be before the Oregon State Legislature when it convenes in February will be the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. Here is everything you need to know about the bill.

What is it and what does it do?

The Clean Energy Jobs Bill (SB 1507/HB 4001) is a cap, trade, and invest plan to reduce state greenhouse gas emissions through a market-based mechanism. Regulated businesses will need to obtain permits, called “allowances” for their emissions. The number of allowances issued will gradually decrease over time, creating economic pressure to decarbonize. Allowances will be auctioned, raising proceeds for the state, and they can be traded among regulated entities. This will allow businesses that reduce emissions more effectively to easily sell (trade) their excess allowances to other businesses that need them. State proceeds, estimated by proponents at around $700 million per year, would not be placed in the general fund but would be reinvested in the state to further reduce carbon pollution, benefit disproportionately impacted communities, provide utility bill assistance, retrain workers, and advance clean economic development. More importantly, greenhouse gas emissions would gradually ratchet down, starting in 2021, to reach 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  

Why adopt the bill now in the short session? 

The last four years have set global temperature records due to increasing carbon pollution. Contributing to heat waves, drought, wildfires, and extreme weather events. The Clean Energy Jobs Bill has been in the works for several sessions. The legislature authorized a major cap and trade study by DEQ in 2016. Committees took testimony during multiple 2017 hearings and held a dozen interim work sessions receiving input from a broad spectrum of interests. They learned from the experience of other states like California and several Canadian provinces that have had similar programs in place for years. Proponents maintain that the hard legislative work to prepare a comprehensive bill is done. It will take several years (until 2021) to fully implement the bill, so proponents say it is time to get started.

Will my energy/fuel bills go up? 

The bill only targets entities with over 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. That’s about 100 companies, but much of the cost will be passed on to consumers. Proponents maintain that the bill contains mechanisms to lessen the adverse cost effect on disadvantaged segments of society, but the bill is designed to move the state gradually away from fossil fuels and onto cost-effective green energy sources. Greenhouse gas emissions are a kind of pollution, and like any pollution there is a cost to clean it up. Opponents argue that it will cause a $0.16 per gallon gas price increase.

Will the bill hurt Oregon’s economy?

Highly unlikely.  Several detailed economic studies and the experience of other states and provinces have shown this.  Reducing imports of fossil fuels and fossil-fueled electricity will keep dollars in Oregon.  The bill will create many new jobs installing energy efficiency and renewable resource equipment.  Oregon factory jobs that are in competition with factories in other states and countries will be protected by the bill. 

Why does Oregon need to take action now on climate change?

Oregon is seeing a 300 to 400 percent increase in the number of acres burned by wildfires.  The cost of last year’s fire season was $435 million.  A two-degree increase in global warming would double these costs.  Oregon is also seeing a rising sea level and worse storms, floods and droughts.  One hundred ninety-five countries around the world pledged in Paris two years ago to do their part in reducing emissions.  And, with the exception of the U.S. government, they are keeping their pledges.  Oregon’s emissions are greater than many of these countries.  Passing and implementing the Clean Energy Jobs Bill in Oregon would contribute significantly to the worldwide effort to combat climate change.