Clean Energy Jobs Bill — Passage in the 2019 Oregon Legislative Session

Pat DeLaquil
County Democrat Reader
4 min readSep 9, 2018
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While Oregon has some elements of a comprehensive state-wide climate policy in place — including clean transportation fuels, phase-out of coal-fueled electricity and renewables standards — we lack an economy-wide integration of policies based on current statewide goals. We also lack funding to support renewables and efficiency, to provide for resilience to unavoidable climate change, and to ensure that people and communities most at risk are provided with needed assistance. In the 2018 session, the legislature was not able to pass the bill, but did agree to establish a Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, co-chaired by Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek. A New Carbon Policy Office reporting to the Governor was formed, and $1.4 M allocated for staff and analysis, including 1) Economic study of program impacts, 2) Energy-intensive industries leakage risk, and 3) a Carbon sequestration & offset protocol taskforce.

The purpose of the programs established by the bill is to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions, promote carbon sequestration and resilience by this state’s natural and working lands, and protect fish and wildlife resources, communities and the economy in the face of climate change and ocean acidification. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels for the covered sectors.

Only the largest emitters, about 100 statewide in the energy and fuel supply and industrial sectors (entities with more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions per year.) The bill would establish an emissions cap that will decline gradually to 2050. Covered polluters would need to buy allowances (permission to emit 1 ton of CO2e) at a state-run auction.

The revenue generated by the sale of allowances would be allocated to help Oregonians invest in efficiency upgrades, solar and wind installations, climate preparedness, such as more efficient irrigation systems, job training and other activities to promote the transition to clean energy and generate jobs and economic development through that transition.

Why use a cap rather than a tax? A cap is flexible, efficient and low-cost. Regulated entities can reduce emissions, buy from the auction, trade with others, or use offsets to comply. Trading helps ensure emission reductions are made at the least cost, because companies that make more reductions than needed can sell surplus allowances to those who have to make higher cost reductions, allowing them more time to comply. Offsets are emission reductions that take place outside covered sectors, such as agriculture, forestry and waste reduction. Verified emission reduction credits from these sectors can be purchased in the allowance market and will provide revenue to support those offset reduction efforts.

The Clean Energy Jobs bill is also designed to link with the growing North American carbon market to establish consistency across jurisdictions and create a broader demand for low-pollution solutions. So there is no need to reinvent the wheel. However, the program is tailored to Oregon, and it establishes a 21-person Program Advisory Committee to oversee development and implementation of the programs, including the Climate Investment Fund, which gets 85% of the allowance proceeds, and a Just Transition Fund, which gets 15% of the allowance revenue. The bill specifies that the Climate Investment Fund is allocated 50% to Impacted Communities (including 1/3 to rural areas), 10% to Tribes, 20% to Natural and Working Lands, and 20% to statewide activities. The Just Transition Fund is a grant program designed to support economic diversification, job creation, job training and other employment and mental health services for workers and communities that are adversely affected by climate change or climate change policies There is funding for an Environmental Justice Task Force, which gets 5 seats on the Program Advisory Committee. Tribes get 2 seats, and Labor gets 2 seats.

For the 2018 Legislative session, the coalition supporting the bill gathered more than 500 people to participate in a Citizen Lobby day, with participation from 100% of legislative districts. The bill gathered endorsements from more than 195 small farms, 800 businesses, and the Business Alliance for Climate, which includes Nike, Vigor, and others. The goal for the 2019 Lobby day event (Feb 2019) is 1000 people and you can become a supporter by urging your state representatives in support of the bill, writing a Letter to the Editor or Op-Ed piece, coming to the Lobby day event and contributing to the coalition promoting the bill.

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