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Guest column: To pass on Oregon’s natural resource heritage, pass Clean Energy Jobs

By BRYCE BAKER

Published on December 19, 2017 5:06PM

Fishing the Lewis & Clark River in 2007.

Bryce Baker

Fishing the Lewis & Clark River in 2007.

Bryce Baker

Bryce Baker


Some of my earliest memories are of my dad and me exploring, foraging and hunting throughout Oregon. From sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River, to razor clamming in Seaside, and steelhead fishing on the Nehalem River, the Oregon Coast was a key location for our adventures.

Now that my dad is gone, I treasure the memories of our experiences even more. Continuing to enjoy Oregon through fishing, crabbing, and hunting — and passing on my dad’s legacy by teaching my own daughter these things — helps me hold onto him.

It’s because of the deep sense of place I feel for Oregon that I am so troubled by changes I’ve observed in recent years. Crabbing season has been delayed again for the third consecutive year, and Oregon salmon and steelhead have hit record low returns. And I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve observed a perfectly full moon on a clear night, with low tides that set the stage for perfect razor clam hunting conditions — yet a marine toxin has closed the beaches.

Just earlier this year, The Daily Astorian wrote that researchers believe these beach closures, due to biotoxins making shellfish unhealthy to eat, will become a more regular occurrence. Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin, but its prevalence increases when the ocean is too warm. In recent years, it has increased substantially along the Pacific Coast. Razor clamming throughout the beaches and bays below Lincoln City is still closed as of today.

These particular impacts are fueled by unseasonably warm rivers and oceans, which are caused, at least in part, by climate change. Luckily, the Oregon Legislature is working on a bill that can help to slow the impacts of climate change, and establish Oregon as a national leader in the movement to reduce emissions and transition our state to a clean energy economy.

Clean Energy Jobs is a policy to cap and price climate pollution and reinvest proceeds from that price into Oregon’s clean energy economy. It’s a flexible, efficient mechanism for reducing climate pollution at a low cost. Oregon has been working on varying forms of legislation to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions with a limit and price on pollution for well over a decade. Clean Energy Jobs is the final product and it’s ready to be passed in 2018.

Ten states already have successful policies in place that are similar to Clean Energy Jobs. California is part of the North American Carbon Market, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario also have an economy-wide cap and price on climate pollution. In the Northeast, nine states (soon to be 10 since Virginia plans to sign on) are all part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap and trade system for the utility sector. If passed, we’d be enacting a policy that’s tried-and-true elsewhere.

Under Clean Energy Jobs, polluters would pay for every ton of climate pollution they emit. Proceeds from the cap would be invested into clean energy projects and jobs, and a minimum of 35 percent of the proceeds from the bill would be invested to reduce pollution and climate impacts as experienced by low-income, communities of color, impacted workers, and rural communities in Oregon — communities like Astoria.

Oregon coastal communities stand to gain a great deal from Clean Energy Jobs, and equally stand to lose a great deal if we fail to act on climate change. The health of our oceans is directly tied to the health of our communities. We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change on the Oregon coast. If we are to pass on Oregon’s natural resource heritage to our children, as my dad passed it on to me, the Oregon Legislature should pass Clean Energy Jobs into law in 2018.

Bryce Baker is an avid outdoorsman who has spent more than two decades fishing, hunting, and crabbing along the Oregon Coast and Coastal Range. He lives with his wife and daughter in Forest Grove.



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