Voters in House District 32 gave me the responsibility of representing their best interests in Salem. I spoke with thousands of you during my campaign, and I know a big priority for you is protecting our environment while strengthening our economy.
With the Clean Energy Jobs bill, HB 2020, this year, my colleagues and I have a unique opportunity to act on climate change — and do so in a way that helps our local communities and economy grow.
Big, transformative change over the next decades seems daunting. I’m encouraged by the nonpartisan, independent economic analysis that shows Clean Energy Jobs will create 50,000 good-paying jobs for Oregonians in a variety of sectors. These jobs can’t be outsourced and will be needed in communities all across the state, not just big cities. Clean Energy Jobs will reduce pollution in Oregon, helping protect existing jobs in key local industries, like fishing and farming, that are already being hurt by climate change.
A lot of concern has been raised lately about HB 2020. So, I felt it necessary to communicate on a large scale with those especially troubled by the bill to assure you that I hear the concerns from local workers, like those at the Wauna paper mill, who fear this legislation that will negatively affect jobs here in Clatsop County. These are good jobs. Men and women doing great work providing necessary products. What I believe Georgia-Pacific, a Koch Industries company, is not telling its employees, however, is that there is no evidence of an employer leaving because of a cap-and-invest system in any of the 10 U.S. states where these types of laws are already working. All of their economies are growing.
HB 2020 is designed with provisions to protect competitiveness of Oregon businesses, while also requiring them to lower emissions. Of millions of dollars the mill spends annually, the Georgia-Pacific corporation will have to pay a tiny fraction of that amount for what it’s putting into our air. Some might argue that’s not even enough. Certainly, it shouldn’t be enough to threaten good peoples’ jobs.
Our area is already being hit hard by climate impacts, and the cost to our communities is too high a price to pay if it continues unchecked. Warmer oceans increase domoic acid incidents, closing beaches and making Oregon shellfish unsafe to eat. We’re experiencing rising sea levels, increased coastal erosion, stronger storms, low fish returns, and delayed crabbing seasons.
Consider the effects on our health care system and the families it serves. Clean Energy Jobs will reduce the carbon, sulfur, arsenic, and mercury pollution in our air, water and soil, which doctors and nurses say will mean fewer emergency room visits for asthma, and reduced risk for heart disease and cancer. That’s why the American Lung Association strongly supports Clean Energy Jobs.
Funds from Clean Energy Jobs will also help Oregon homes and businesses save money through more affordable clean energy and energy-efficiency upgrades. It will help them install solar power, upgrade their buildings to use energy more efficiently and cut costs, and switch to cleaner vehicles with lower fuel costs.
We’re already seeing how these upgrades can benefit our local community. A new building at Clatsop Community College, for example, is saving $25,000 a year from energy efficiency by upgrades — the exact types of upgrades that will be funded by Clean Energy Jobs. Imagine the difference it would make if businesses and individuals across the state could make these upgrades! From weatherizing homes, to helping farmers install better irrigation, the benefits of Clean Energy Jobs are tangible, and will be felt through reduced energy bills, cleaner air, and communities more resilient to climate impacts.
The reality of the climate crisis is evident but we can turn the tide. Clean Energy Jobs is how we do it. It will stimulate Oregon’s economy while serving as a model others can follow. It’s a way for Oregon to do its part, and inspire other states to do theirs.
Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, D-Astoria, represents House District 32 in the Oregon Legislature.