Oregon? Cap-and-trade? Buckle up. The 2020 legislative session starts now
As Oregon lawmakers gaveled in the 2020 session on Monday, Feb. 3, Democrats' effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions was getting a public nudge from business.
Nearly two dozen companies, the Craft Brew Alliance and two health care climate alliances in Washington and California signed a Jan. 29 letter to "leadership and legislators of the Pacific Coast," urging them adopt cap-and-trade programs, which they argue can promote economic growth.
Among the signatories: Nike, the Washington County sportswear behemoth and one of the state's largest companies.
Nike supported similar legislation last year.
Several other major companies, including Microsoft, Unilever and Uber, also signed the letter, which was organized by Ceres, a Boston nonprofit that aims to make businesses more environmentally sound.
Despite continued support from one of Oregon's highest-profile businesses, the proposal faces the unpredictable nature of Oregon environmental politics. Republicans in the Senate protested a similar proposal during the 2019 legislative session by leaving the state. Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. of Grants Pass won't rule out boycotting the Legislature this month again to avoid voting on the proposal.
Companies that signed the letter say they support West Coast states implementing a cap on emissions and creating a system of allowances that are, simply put, permits to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases.
California's cap-and-trade system has been up and running since 2013. Neither Oregon nor Washington has one, but both states are considering legislation to implement such programs. Each state could link to the Western Climate Initiative, a market for allowances that includes Quebec and California.
Under a cap-and-trade program, allowances to polluters decline over time to meet emissions reduction targets. Businesses can buy or sell allowances on the market if they plan to emit more or less than they are allotted.
"From agriculture, seafood and forestry to technology and advanced manufacturing, our region is built on a diverse set of industries," the group of businesses wrote. "Carbon markets will expand economic opportunity in our region and spur innovation while protecting these sectors from climate impacts."
The companies wrote that "cap and invest" initiatives have "proven to be highly effective in reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions, while fostering economic growth and spurring innovation." They wrote that market mechanisms help ensure that companies can reduce emissions more cheaply. "This drives innovation and attracts investments that support the commercialization of low-carbon technologies, innovative practices to sequester carbon, and new jobs," they wrote.
'Thrive in the long run'
Vince Digneo, a sustainability strategist at the software company Adobe, one of the companies that signed the letter, said in a written statement that a policy "must be well designed."
"We see cap-and-invest as a way to reduce emissions, to enable new, low-carbon technologies to be developed and deployed, and to generate funds that will grow jobs and economies," Digneo said. "Proposals like this help bring affordable renewable energy not only to Adobe's facilities in these regions, but also to the communities where our employees work and live, helping ensure that both businesses and people thrive in the long run."
The Jan. 29 letter, though, is merely one chord in what has proven to be a sonata of opinions on the proposal from private business, some fearing increased costs due to a program that penalizes emissions. Republicans say they are concerned that those costs could get passed on to consumers, particularly in rural areas of the state where per capita income is typically lower.
In 2019, a group of businesses calling itself Oregon Business for Climate supported the proposal. That coalition included symbolically Oregon brands like Deschutes Brewery. But several businesses, including Deschutes, pulled out of the group after the bill became controversial in the wake of Republicans' boycott.
Two more public hearings on Senate Bill 1530 are planned this week; one took place Tuesday.
• 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, Hearing Room C, Oregon Capitol, 900 Court St NE, Salem.
• 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, same venue.
Sen. Michael Dembrow
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1723
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR 97301
Senator Herman Baertschiger Jr.
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1702
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-323, Salem, OR, 97301
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