One Step Closer to Climate History in Oregon

Last week, Oregon got one step closer to becoming the second state (alongside California) to institute an economy-wide Cap-and-Trade carbon pricing program.

After years of debate and more than six months packed with special joint committee hearings and Governor-convened working group discussions, H.B. 2020 — also known as the Clean Energy Jobs bill — was introduced last Thursday, in the waning hours of January.

While current bill language is not perfect and much work remains to get a strong bill across the finish line, the bill provides a solid starting point to begin the legislative process:

  • The proposal would establish new statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction goals — not only a long-term target of 80% below 1990 emission levels by 2050, but an interim target of 45% below 1990 emission levels by 2035, which is critical to driving emission reductions as soon as possible.
  • The proposal would place an overall limit (“cap”) across regulated sectors, with the cap declining by a constant amount each year to stay on track to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals.
  • While there are some exemptions and exclusions, the program is economy-wide and covers emissions from utilities, industrial companies, and transportation fuel providers.
  • Through smart market-based program design — including regular trading of allowances and the option to buy offsets to meet compliance obligations — the proposal would help ensure least-cost emission reductions.
  • The proposal would authorize the use of allowance proceeds for programs to provide assistance to households, businesses, and workers impacted by the state’s transition away from a fossil fuel-powered economy.
  • The proposal would ensure the right long-term market signals are in place to drive private investment and job growth in the state’s clean energy economy, while also creating new market structures, revenue streams, and avenues for investment of program revenue to support climate-friendly projects and practices in Oregon’s forests, farms, and ranches.

E2 has been in Oregon working on this issue for many years — in just the past 16 months in Salem, E2 has hosted two legislative briefings and organized three separate advocacy days with large business delegations calling for passage of a Cap-and-Invest program for Oregon. That’s in addition to our efforts elsewhere, including the development of district level clean energy economy data, business community support letters, and placing supportive Opinion pieces in newspapers across the state.

While there is a long road ahead, we’re confident this is the year for a carbon pricing program in Oregon. Governor Kate Brown was re-elected in November on a pro-climate action platform. Leadership of the Legislature’s supermajority have expressed and demonstrated their commitment to passing a bill this session. And E2 is dedicated to bringing the business voice to bear to ensure lawmakers understand the economic benefits of a strong and ambitious Cap-and-Invest program. In fact, E2 has its biggest Oregon lobby day yet set for later this month, with plans for a delegation of more than 20 business leaders and meetings with nearly 50 legislative offices on February 20.

Passage of Cap-and-Invest would catapult Oregon into the ranks of national and global leaders on climate action and cement the state’s status as a great place for clean energy investments. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, such decisive action on climate in Oregon might inspire other states to do the same. If you’re interested in adding your business voice to this effort, please contact me at zamittay@e2.org.