As Senate Bill 1530’s carbon cap-and-trade plan continues working its way through legislative committees in Salem, the Douglas County commissioners have issued a proclamation stating their opposition to it.
The commissioners said the bill would create significant increases in utility and fuel costs for county residents.
SB 1530 seeks to reduce statewide carbon emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. It aims to do that by setting a cap on emissions by the state’s top carbon polluters. Companies emitting carbon above the cap can offset that by purchasing allowances from companies whose pollution is under the cap.
Cap-and-trade systems are in place in 11 states currently, including California and many northeastern states.
The Oregon bill’s supporters argue climate change is a pressing problem that will create a crisis for the younger generations alive today, and that regulating greenhouse gases is the key to preventing that crisis. Opponents argue the cap-and-trade approach will harm the economy, especially in rural Oregon, and that the state’s contribution to worldwide global warming is negligible.
Republicans legislator, along with many Southern Oregonians in timber, trucking and other fuel-intensive activities oppose SB 1530, which is a revised version of last session’s House Bill 2020. Thousands of Timber Unity protesters rallied against the bills in Salem last year and again this month.
In 2019, Republican senators staged a walkout in Salem, traveling to other states to prevent a quorum needed to vote on HB 2020. This year, they’ve called for cap and trade to be referred to the voters rather than decided in the Legislature.
The Douglas County commissioners said public lands in the county have been mismanaged, leading to wildfires and wildfire smoke, and that the costs of these problems are bad enough without county residents facing the additional costs of a cap and trade program.
“Any benefits derived through Senate Bill 1530, many of which are in dispute, do not justify the penalties and costs imposed by the Bill,” they said in the proclamation.
SB 1530 received approval from the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee last week, and it’s now in the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources. In its current form, it includes delays for new transportation fuel standards to kick in for rural areas. They’d take effect in Douglas County in 2025, three years after the new rules hit Portland.
In its current form, the bill includes carbon reduction provisions suggested by Timber Unity such as an annual Tree Planting Day, a DEQ study on reducing landfill waste emissions and addressing barriers businesses face converting their fleets to lower emission vehicles.
While opposition to carbon legislation appears to be the majority view in Douglas County, that’s not universal.
Neal Hadley, a Douglas County Global Warming Coalition board member and biologist, submitted testimony to the Legislature saying he’s seen climate change’s impact on local wildlife.
“I’ve been in Lookingglass for 20 years and in that time I’ve seen the change that a compelling amount of research shows is dominantly driven by this greenhouse gas-fueled climate crisis. I’ve got a lot of dead and dying Douglas fir trees on my property, the winter storms are more sporadic and intense, and the numbers and varieties of butterflies, pollinators, birds and more have dropped. It’s truly disturbing,” he said in written testimony.
Hadley also said the 70-cent-per-gallon diesel price increase between January and April 2011 illustrates that prices are volatile even without carbon legislation.
OPB reported the House Rules Committee was expected to consider a parallel bill this week, and that House Speaker Tina Kotek had called for a slowdown of SB 1530’s consideration in the Senate, where it could be killed if 11 of the 12 Republican senators walk out again.
The Legislature has limited time to make a decision. This year’s legislative session is a short one, scheduled to end March 8.