Opinion: Proposed cap-and-trade law is troubling
This session there has been a lot of attention focused on House Bill 2020, Oregon's cap-and-trade proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions. A first draft of this legislation was released in January and after a statewide tour by the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, 130 page amendment was released last week to replace the original document.
Under a cap-and-trade plan, the state's largest greenhouse gas emitters would be required to purchase credits for every ton of emissions released each year. The cap on overall emissions would decrease over time to ensure Oregon continues to reduce carbon emissions. As envisioned, money raised from the program would be used to help Oregon adapt to climate change and transition into a clear economy.
As a member of the Joint Committee on Transportation, I found the testimony on the impacts of HB 2020 to the transportation sector and overall economy to be both informative and troubling. I felt the information shared from a variety of sources exposed vast problems with this legislation.
Oregon AAA expressed concern over an immediate 16-cent per-gallon increase in gas, following a 10-cent per-gallon increase imposed by the 2017 transportation funding package. The current average price for a gallon of regular in Oregon is $3.05, adding 16 cents would bring the average to $3.21, which would make Oregon the third most expensive state in the country, behind Hawaii and California.
The price of diesel fuel would increase by an estimated 15-65 cents per gallon, and this increase will have a 5-10 percent increase of costs on construction and delivering construction materials. From the cost of mining aggregates and manufacturing concrete and asphalt, to its delivery and placement, the ripple effect will be significant.
As an example, the Oregon Department of Transportation's construction budget is about $1 billion a year. Due to the increased fuel costs, it would mean a 5-10 percent decrease in completed highway and bridge work projects.
The impacts on our transportation infrastructure will also be felt at the county level. We heard testimony from the Association of Oregon Counties that increases of up to 25 percent for steel and iron could prevent counties from replacing bridges where over 95 percent are rated as structurally deficient.
There are alternative legislative concepts, and ongoing discussions and testimony to consider. This is a complex issue and lawmakers will be working to craft a climate action program that best serves the needs of Oregonians.
While it is our moral imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I think we need a more efficient, cheaper, less bureaucratic and more direct way to reduce carbon.