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Senate leaders doubt bill to charge companies for carbon emissions would have enough votes or time.

PARIS ACHEN/CAPITAL BUREAU - The Oregon State Capitol in SalemSALEM – State legislation to require Oregon industry to pay for their carbon emissions is unlikely to move forward this year, Oregon Senate leaders said.

Lawmakers are expected to work on the legislation during the 35-day session Feb. 5 to March 11 but not pass it this year, said Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland.

"It's an issue that needs to be dealt with. My personal opinion is that we most likely will not be able to get over the finish line," said Burdick, who supports the proposal.

The comments - made at the Associated Press's legislative preview Monday at the state Capitol - suggest the Senate lacks enough votes to pass the "cap and invest" bill. Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said he supports enacting a cap and invest bill in 2019.

House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte said he believes House Democrats also are short of votes to the pass the legislation, but he declined to identify the source of that information.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, declined to answer a question about whether there is a way to enact a cap and invest program this year.

"I continue to believe there is room for negotiation, and all I would say is like the New England Patriots, if we get on the field during a snowstorm, we are going to work hard on the field and we are going to get that ball … across the goal line," Kotek said.

Gov. Kate Brown said she would like to see lawmakers move "as quickly as possible on legislation that reduces carbon emissions." But she wouldn't say whether that needed to happen this year.

"The reason why I think that is important … is that we are seeing the impacts of climate change on a regular basis," she said.

The cap and invest legislation, introduced by Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, and Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, would charge Oregon industries for emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and use the revenue to invest in projects meant to slow climate change.

The legislation reemerged this year after stalling last session and after several years of work on the proposal. House Democratic leadership had identified the legislation as a top priority for the 2018 policymaking session, but critics argue the bill is more appropriate for the Legislature's five-month-long session in 2019, when there would be more time for refinement.

Modeled after a program in California, Oregon's so-called "Clean Energy Jobs" bill would set a cap of less than 25,000 tons of CO2 per year for each company, beginning in 2021.

An estimated 100 Oregon companies that emit more than that amount would be required to buy market-priced allowances for the excess. The "price" on emissions is designed to encourage businesses to adopt technologies and practices that reduce their carbon footprint. The allowances would be sold at a North American auction and generate revenue that would be invested in green-energy and environmentally friendly agriculture projects.

The program would eventually generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that would be invested in projects that slow climate change, Dembrow said. The exact cost of the program has yet to be calculated, but previous estimates pegged revenue at about $700 million per year.

Carbon trading markets are gaining momentum around the globe. Washington recently proposed a state cap and invest program. China has plans to launch a carbon market later this year that would account for about a quarter of that country's industrial emissions, according to E & E News, a Washington, D.C., environment and energy publication.

No cap and trade system in the world has resulted in significant emissions reductions, in part because caps still remain relatively high and businesses haven't had to pay out a lot of money, according to E & E News. But the programs have "served as political consensus builders that have gotten industry accustomed to climate policies," E & E News's Debra Kahn wrote in December.


Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
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