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Rep. Malstrom: Bill in Legislature would serve as investment in environment

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It is time to pass a bill to cap and price carbon emissions and reinvest proceeds in our communities.

A bill is now being considered in the Legislature that could create a new marketplace that allows innovators to prosper, reduces the impact of air pollution on our health, and generate funds that could be used for worker training, for more health-saving clean air technology, and for energy efficiency projects for low-income housing. Rep. Malstrom

Clean Energy Jobs legislation carries this promise, and earlier this year, a report released by the nonpartisan Department of Environmental Quality found a policy to cap and put a price on greenhouse gas emissions offering a flexible, cost-effective mechanism for reducing our state's climate pollution that would preserve our thriving economy while protecting our health.

The Legislature commissioned this report because we wanted to know, in detail, what the effect of a cap on carbon pollution would mean for Oregon's people and businesses. The Oregon Legislature has considered a price on these emissions before, over many sessions. We have studied alternative mechanisms and, to the consternation of some advocates, have left previous proposals on the table. We have done our due diligence.

With the release of the DEQ's exhaustive, 75-page study the road ahead is clear: It is time to pass a bill to cap and price carbon emissions and reinvest proceeds in our communities. More than 48,000 Oregonians work in the clean and green economy, producing $7 billion in goods and services. Clean economy jobs are growing at an annual rate of 11 percent in Oregon — faster than state employment as a whole. New investments from a statewide price on pollution would only accelerate this job growth.

Investments from this law could protect everyone's health. The air in Oregon is some of the worst in the nation for dangerous particle pollution from burning fossil fuels. Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians suffer from asthma, including 71,000 children. Particle pollution leads to and worsens lung and heart disease. Pollution from dirty energy makes it worse — contributing to hundreds of premature deaths each year. We need clean air to breathe and healthy water to drink. Transitioning to clean energy will clear the air and make us all healthier.

The people of Beaverton do their part to reduce pollution. We pay to have our trash picked up, we recycle and we obey burn bans to protect air quality. It's time to expect our partners in industry to show the same initiative in reducing pollution.

Oregon has, over the years, been considered a leader on protecting our climate and natural resources. Leadership doesn't mean being the fastest, however. When it comes to groundbreaking laws like capping carbon pollution and reinvesting in our communities, leadership has meant taking our time, studying the landscape, knowing the options and finding the right path forward. After many legislative sessions and exhaustive research, I can say with clarity: Oregon can't afford to wait any longer. The time has come to address our climate pollution. The time has come to protect our health. The time has come for clean energy jobs.

State Rep. Sheri Malstrom of Beaverton represents District 27, which includes a swatch of Washington County west of Tigard. She spent more than 30 years as a public health nurse. She can be reached at rep.sherimalstrom

@oregonlegislature.gov, or 503-986-1427