Cap & Trade Plan Pushed Back Over Last-Minute Changes

Less than a week after a pair of bills that would establish a statewide cap-and-trade system in Oregon were reportedly ready to go, new changes introduced at the last minute have reversed its momentum as the legislative session comes to a close. 

Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), co-chair of the Joint Ways & Means Committee which controls the budgeting for new bills, introduced 19 pages of amendments to the cap-and-trade bills last week. Johnson’s amendments package appears to share the interests of industries opposed to the legislation.   

New amendments at this stage means the bills will be sent back to lower-level committees for votes, leaving Democrats only a few weeks to push the bills through the process once again before the legislature wraps up at the end of June.  

“Cap-and-trade” is a market-based climate regulation structure which treats carbon emissions as a commodity. The state government sells emissions licenses to companies, which represent portions of a total amount of statewide carbon emissions allowed annually, the “cap”. These companies can also buy and sell these licenses if their emissions levels rise or fall, the “trade” part of the system.    

The bills plan for the statewide cap to decline each year until emissions levels are reduced to the target amount, defined as 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The new amendments would weaken these targets, create more allowances for pollution and more carve-outs for businesses like fuel importers.  

Johnson was also the lone Democrat in the Senate who sided with Republicans against her colleagues’ $2 billion education funding bill. She joined their demands to reforms to the state’s public pension system (PERS), reforms which ended up cutting benefits for public pensioners. 

By Ian MacRonald