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Mid-Session, OR Lawmakers Making Climate Action Major Priority

Oregon lawmakers are considering an ambitious bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions. (Waterkeeper Alliance Inc./Flickr)
Oregon lawmakers are considering an ambitious bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions. (Waterkeeper Alliance Inc./Flickr)
April 29, 2019

SALEM, Ore. – A little more than halfway through the session, advocates for action on climate change see a lot of potential in the Oregon State Legislature.

Environmental and clean energy groups got their first major victory in March when lawmakers passed a bill banning offshore oil drilling, and a bill banning fracking is still on the table.

But Zach Baker, Oregon policy manager with the organization Climate Solutions, says the most ambitious legislation, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, could determine this session's legacy on climate action.

House Bill 2020 would require large polluters to buy credits for greenhouse gas emissions and place a cap on emissions that would decrease over time.

"Passing the Clean Energy Jobs bill would be the most ambitious climate program in Oregon's history, and the Legislature has been working on this for a number of years and is poised this year to pass the bill," Baker stresses.

Baker says an amendment to the bill would ensure funds from the greenhouse gas credits would be invested in communities most effected by climate change, including communities of color, tribes, rural communities and to help low-income families.

Critics of the bill say it could hit consumers hard, increasing energy prices, particularly for gasoline.

Lawmakers also are considering another innovative bill.

Baker says Gov. Kate Brown included in her budget a proposal to create a new state agency called the Oregon Climate Authority that would focus on addressing climate change and the transition to clean energy.

"It would be the first state agency in the country to focus exclusively on climate change, and we think it could elevate the importance of climate in state government and provide better coordination among state agencies to address the climate crisis," he states.

Legislators also are looking at bills that would aid the transition to electric vehicles and expand renewable energy, such as rooftop solar. The session is scheduled to adjourn at the end of June.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR