Oregon lawmakers could use the five-week legislative session in 2018 to tackle an issue that fell short in this year’s session.
The so-called “cap and invest” proposal would set an upper limit on the amount of fossil fuels used by companies in Oregon. It would also limit the amount imported into the state, in the case of fuel distributors.
The bill would charge a fee on companies that exceed the limit, and the money generated would be used on projects that would reduce carbon emissions in Oregon.
“If we do this right, not only would it really benefit our goal of reducing carbon emissions, but it would also be a really good thing for Oregon, particularly rural Oregon,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland.
Dembrow acknowledged there are many unanswered questions about the proposal.
“If we do it wrong, it can be bad for Oregon and we don’t want that to happen,” he said. “We want this to be a good thing, to see it spurring renewed investments all over the state.”
Dembrow gave an update during a joint meeting of the Oregon House and Senate's Environment Committees on Monday. He said four different work groups, comprised of lawmakers and interest groups, would meet several times over the next six weeks to discuss the proposal.
Supporters said the work done on the issue during the 2017 session, combined with the additional conversations scheduled for this fall, should set the proposal up for a passage during the five-week session that starts in early February.
But Republicans, wary of creating a new program that essentially acts as a tax on a some businesses, said the short session is not meant for tackling contentious issues such as a cap and invest program.
"The short session goes by incredibly fast and there isn't the time to broker a compromise, or work out that complicated of a new sales tax on energy," said Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend.