Cap and trade

Protesters against cap and trade held a rally at the Capitol this month.

SALEM — Lawmakers have changed the plan to cut back on the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to ease the impact on rural Oregon and adopt elements proposed by #TimberUnity.

The revisions are part of the continuing effort by Democratic sponsors to drive a policy that has greater statewide acceptance.

The revisions to Senate Bill 1530 incorporate requests from Republicans and #TimberUnity, a grassroots organization that has been agitating against a cap-and-trade policy. Senate Republicans fled the state over last year’s version of the bill.

The cap-and-trade program would set a limit on statewide carbon emissions and aims to reduce emissions over time.

Limits on emissions would apply to certain industries and major fuel importers. The policy would carve up the emissions limit into allowances that emitters can buy and sell on a market. The idea is that as emissions targets get lower, fewer allowances are available, and industry would improve pollution controls.

Opponents have criticized the plan for its potential impact on consumers and small businesses, particularly through higher fuel costs.

The amendments change when fuel would be regulated under the program. It delays the impact on Curry and Coos counties, as well as Bend and Klamath Falls, until 2028, six years later than for the Portland metro area.

And rather than 20 counties triggering a statewide adoption of limits on fuel importers, the amendment sets the trigger at 23 counties.

The delay in the fuel regulation for Curry and Coos counties could prompt similar requests from other counties and cities on the coast. Under the working draft of the bill, most counties west of the Cascades — including Clatsop County — would be regulated in 2025.

Warrenton city commissioners, for example, want local relief from projected increases in fuel prices.

Mayor Henry Balensifer argued during a City Commission meeting on Tuesday that locals shouldn’t be penalized for the outsized impact of tourists buying fuel locally. He gained agreement from fellow commissioners to write a letter to the region’s legislators hoping for a method to exempt locals from the expected increases in fuel prices.

Neither Astoria nor Clatsop County have publicly discussed any potential amendments to the cap-and-trade bill.

Under the amendments, a greater share of the revenue from transportation — 90% — would go to counties or metro areas that engaged in the program to use on emissions reduction and climate adaptation projects. The rest would go to the state Department of Transportation for projects around the state.

The amendments incorporate policy ideas from state Sen. Alan Olsen, R-Canby, and Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, who sit on the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

Olsen’s idea would make it easier for state agencies receiving money raised by the program to buy electric vehicles, and Findley’s would streamline a state energy efficiency audit process for manufacturers that use a lot of energy but face competition from areas that aren’t subject to emissions limits.

The changes also include policy ideas borrowed from #TimberUnity. For example, the bill would direct the state’s parks department to conduct an annual tree planting day for local governments to sponsor planting trees in public spaces. It would also direct the state’s main operations agency to study ways to account for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting goods and services that state government buys.

The amendments aim to narrow the information about the program that is exempt from public disclosure to trade secrets, which is already defined in the state’s public records law.

The new version of the bill cleared the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Thursday by a 3-2, party line vote. Olsen and Findley, the two Republicans, voted against the bill.

Edward Stratton of The Astorian contributed to this report. The Oregon Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group and Salem Reporter.

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