(Updated February 1, 2019)
While the big event in the 2019 Oregon legislative session is sure to be a $2 billion revenue package for schools and an industry-supported Medicaid package, the first major legislative thrust by Democrats will be a cap and trade bill designed to put a lid on carbon emissions. A key Oregonian in Congress is also pushing for a major response to climate change.
The bill is expected to surface by the end of the week. Its chief architect, Senator Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, says the measure will be very similar to a previously introduced bill, but with more clarity on issues such as oversight, mitigation for vulnerable industries and how quickly the emission cap will decline. Republicans are grumbling they haven’t seen evolving drafts since late last year.
Not surprisingly, Dembrow predicts a “noisy few weeks” when the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, which he co-chairs, considers the controversial measure, called the Clean Energy Jobs Bill.
Environmental groups expect a cap and trade bill will pass this session. Governor Brown and Democratic legislators vigorously campaigned in support of climate change legislation. Brown's budget framework, released late last year, detailed the creation of a Carbon Policy Office, with a $1.4 million budget, that has been charged with exploring how Oregon can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while still growing the state’s economy.
The basic idea is to set a fixed limit on greenhouse gas emissions and issue allowances that can be traded in an open market, which currently includes seven states and four Canadian provinces. The greenhouse gas emission limit would ratchet down over time.
The Environmental Defense Fund anticipates Oregon’s cap and trade bill will parallel a similar structure in California that extends to transportation fuels as well as regulated electricity and natural gas utilities.
As Oregon lawmakers hack away on climate change legislation, Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is preparing to push for a $500 billion investment to address crumbling US infrastructure, support “green” infrastructure that is more resilient to climate change and develop cleaner fuels. Among other funding, DeFazio proposes issuing 30-year bonds paid for by indexing the federal gas tax to inflation, which he says could generate between $17 to $20 billion per year to invest.
He wants the House to pass a version of his legislation in the next six months and it appears House Democratic leaders support his push.
DeFazio told Curbed in an interview there is a $102 billion backlog to repair America’s metropolitan transit systems and that critical transportation routes such as the Holland Tunnel in New York and the I-5 Columbia River Bridge could be wiped out by flooding or earthquakes, causing economic catastrophes.
Curbed observed, “[DeFazio] takes control of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during a pivotal time when technology advances, long-term funding issues and climate change demand a comprehensive, forward-thinking plan.”
In quintessential DeFazio fashion, he said, “I’m going to approach it from a very hard-hearted way: Boy, you’re stupid if you don’t make these investments.”