Oregon State Democrats rally behind cap-and-trade emissions plan

Source: By Sarah Zimmerman, Associated Press • Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2019

Oregon is on the precipice of becoming the second state after California to adopt a cap-and-trade program, a market-based approach to lowering the greenhouse gas emissions behind global warming.

The House approved the plan 36-24 Monday after nearly six hours of debate, with supporters calling it the United States’ most progressive climate policy. State Rep. Karin Power, a Democrat from suburban Portland and one of two key lawmakers behind the measure, said it not only cuts emissions but invests in transitioning the state economy and infrastructure to better prepare for more intense weather events tied to climate change.

“This is the fight of our lifetime that has been discussed for far too long with far too little action,” she said. “Action must become part of our collective national fabric and normalized as we recognize the crisis before us and step up to the challenge.”

Cap and trade has been a top priority this year for Democrats, who hold a majority in the statehouse. And Gov. Kate Brown (D) has said she will sign the measure once it passes the Senate, noting in a statement that “Oregon can be the log that breaks the jam nationally” on climate policy.

Yet a decade’s worth of baggage from California’s cap-and-trade program has fractured support for the policy among environmental groups. Some question whether Oregon can truly meet its lofty emission goals and keep its promise to prioritize investments in low-income communities and Native American tribes’ ability to prepare for a changing climate.

The division underscores a larger fight on the left over how to best tackle climate change, which scientists warn poses a global existential threat. Some progressives have balked at any solutions less than those outlined in the Green New Deal, a sweeping climate platform from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) that calls for the decarbonization of nearly every industry.

“Strong climate policy requires steep regulations on business and a total transformation of our current infrastructure,” said Shawn Fleek with OPAL Environmental Justice, one of the main organizations on the left against the bill. “Cap and trade does none of that. Just like in California, Oregon’s bill has instead turned into a Frankenstein’s monster in handouts to industry.”