Oregon Senate rejects ‘clean fuels’ bill, a top priority for environmental lobby

Source: Yuxing Zheng, The Oregonian • Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013

SALEM — The Senate on Saturday rejected a “clean fuels” bill that was the environmental lobby’s top priority to combat global warming.

Senate Bill 488 failed initially on a 15-15 vote. Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, was the lone Democrat who voted with all 14 Republicans against the measure. Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland, then switched to vote against it, allowing her to use a procedural move to keep the bill alive.

Rosenbaum said the bill could be brought up again for reconsideration, which must occur within 24 hours. The legislation could be scheduled for another vote or sent back to a committee.

Senate Bill 488 would lift a 2015 sunset date for Oregon’s “clean fuel” program, which aims to cut the carbon in car and truck fuel 10 percent a gallon by 2025.

If the bill ultimately dies this year, it could be brought up again in the February 2014 short session.

The Legislature’s enthusiasm for climate change bills has diminished substantially in recent years. The Legislature adopted the clean fuel program in 2009, but the Department of Environmental Quality has yet to implement it.

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, said the legislation would reduce the effects of carbon pollution and climate change while also creating jobs in Oregon’s burgeoning alternative fuels industry.

“Do you want to get (people) off the petroleum train, if you will?” Beyer said. “Our dependence on oil, particularly foreign oil, has cost us a lot of American lives, has cost us a lot of severe economic problems. This is an opportunity to join with other states and move us in the right direction.”

No discussion occurred on the bill before senators rejected it.

The trucking industry and petroleum fuel suppliers and producers say Oregon’s plan would increase fuel prices. Oregon already requires 10 percent ethanol in gasoline and 5 percent biodiesel in diesel.

California is the only state to implement a low-carbon-fuel rule so far, though its rules are being challenged in court.