Cannon Beach has joined five other cities and Benton County in asking the Oregon Legislature to enact a price on carbon and pollution.
The Cannon Beach City Council passed a resolution on Nov. 3 asking for a carbon cap or tax because “climate change is a threat to public health, national security, food security, business supply chains, wildlife and future generations.”
The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to pre-1990 levels. Page Atcheson, field director of Oregon Climate, a grassroots campaign that worked with Cannon Beach, said carbon pricing would discourage fossil fuel consumption and encourage renewable energy and conservation
“The basic idea is that climate change is this large problem that we all know we have to address, and that by putting a price on carbon,” she said. “You essentially make polluters pay to pollute,” Atcheson said.
A 2013 Portland State University Northwest Economic Research Center study stated putting the right price on carbon would be effective in reducing emissions.
Oregon Climate is advocating for returning 100 percent of tax revenues to Oregon taxpayers as a dividend check.
Known as price and dividend, the method would benefit the lower and middle-class, Atcheson said. Taxpayers could save more by choosing lower carbon options while high energy users would be most impacted.
The resolution states that “climate change is a threat to public health, national security, food security, business supply chains, wildlife, and future generations” and asks the Legislature to “craft legislation to enact a carbon price, in the form of a fee or a cap, using the best available research to ensure a policy that significantly reduces emissions while mitigating impacts on low-income Oregonians.”
During a Transportation Vision Panel last week, Tom Potiowsky, director of the Northwest Economic Research Center, said a carbon tax could be more costly for rural Oregonians who must drive longer distances with fewer transportation options. He added, however, that policy makers could adjust the tax amount in those areas to reduce the financial burden.
During an October work session, councilors asked what the impacts would be locally and sought more information before their vote.
Cannon Beach Councilor George Vetter said there should be a better way to do it than collect taxes and hand the money right back. Councilor Mike Benefield countered that the public has to take some action to improve air quality.
Vetter added that energy companies could raise prices.
“The company that chooses to become more efficient, becomes more competitive,” Benefield said.
Atcheson called the carbon price a “free market solution” to addressing pollution, adding businesses can adjust accordingly. She noted that the method has proven effective in British Columbia and is “seen as an initiative more than a punishment.” California also has its own version and Washington has a carbon pricing ballot measure.
Most in the industry oppose the measure, according to Gregg Kantor, president and CEO of NW Natural Gas. He said Oregon’s current emission rates are lower than the rest of the country’s, making it harder for the state to compete nationally.
If passed, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality would likely administer the carbon pricing.
Cannon Beach councilors voted 3-2 for the measure, with Mayor Sam Steidel, Melissa Cadwallader and Mike Benefield in favor of the measure. Vetter and Wendy Higgins vote against it.
The city joins Hood River, Eugene, Milwaukie, Corvallis, Portland, and Benton County in calling on the legislature to price carbon.