Oregon Democratic lawmakers unveiled more details Wednesday for their plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
With the February legislative session only two months away, some Democrats are hoping to gather momentum to turn a cap-and-trade proposal into law during the six weeks they are in Salem this winter.
Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, helped draft the policy and said he hopes Oregon could eventually serve as a template for other progressive states to emulate when passing similar carbon-capping proposals.
But first, he has to convince his colleagues in Salem.
The big picture of the plan hasn’t changed much since it was first floated. The legislation would create an overall cap on greenhouse gas emissions the state is producing. Each year, the cap would be reduced. The goal is to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to a measure 80 percent below 1990 levels.
But the latest proposal outlines a governing structure that would oversee the complex program.
Lawmakers envision a 21-member board made up of citizens from a wide range of backgrounds. The proposal specifies it should include someone with an expertise in climate science, tribal representatives, and business people, among others. This committee would advise a newly created Joint Legislative Committee on Climate.
The revenue generated from the program was at one time estimated to be $1.4 billion every two-year budget cycle. The latest proposal doesn’t give a specific number, but includes more insight into how the money would be spent. The first 15 percent would be dedicated to a transition fund, which would help industries affected by the new regulations.
Dembrow said there are about 100 businesses in the state that currently produce more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually and could be impacted.
The remaining money would be allocated through the state’s budgeting process, but 60 percent would go toward communities most impacted by climate change. These communities are defined in the draft as those with low income, high unemployment and a high proportion of very young or very old populations.
The money would help the communities invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Another 20 percent would be dedicated for projects that increase carbon sequestration and the remaining 20 could go toward any project in Oregon that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
“We need to understand business needs to take time to react and we can’t create unreasonable expectations," Dembrow said. "We need to make the program such so they have time to prepare."
The bill language is scheduled to be drafted by Jan. 8.
If the bill were to pass this session, the process would still take an estimated two to three years to complete before the cap-and-trade proposal is in place.
Republicans are expected to push back on the policy.
“Democrats want to use the short session to adopt a new program that would allow unelected bureaucrats to, in essence, raise taxes at will,” House Republican Leader Mike McLane said in a statement to OPB previously. “The carbon tax could end up costing Oregon families hundreds of dollars every year with no meaningful impact on global climate change.”