In celebration of Earth Day, I’d like to review the latest news on proposals for a landmark piece of legislation dealing with climate change.
This measure has gone by many names as it has evolved through the past three years. Cap and Trade, Cap and Invest, Clean Jobs, Clean Climate – if you are confused, it is likely because you are paying attention. But the basic premise of HB 2020 is that we place a limit on greenhouse gas emissions, charge firms or industries that exceed those limits, and then invest that money in new clean jobs and industries.
Here at the Coast, we know that climate change is real. We see ocean acidification affecting the crabbing season and our shellfish industries. Warming waters reduce fish runs. Rising ocean levels cause us concern for erosion and flooding. And hotter, drier summers extend Oregon’s devastating fire season and bring them closer to us.
Some argue that Oregon’s role in this looming problem is small. Others reply we all have an obligation. Think globally; act locally.
Like all of us, I worry about the future we leave our kids and grandkids. At the same time, my concerns as measures like HB 2020 move forward are how they may also affect local jobs, local industries, and the cost of living for local Oregonians like you.
The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is continuing to work on amendments to the original bill. At last count, there were 79 of them! Here are some highlights.
Cost Reimbursements: Rural residents, particularly lower income families and fixed income retirees worry this measure will increase the cost of gasoline and natural gas. That increase particularly impacts rural communities where we have to drive more for work and essential shopping.
New amendments are designed to reimburse targeted households for 100% of increased fuel costs. The plan is for the Department of Revenue to actually send checks to people. That cost is estimated for the median rural household at about 33 cents per day, or $120 a year. My priority is to ensure that our coast and coast range qualify as “targeted households” in the bill.
Farmers, Dairy, and Fisherman: Coastal small business also will be affected by costs for diesel fuel and natural gas. As the proposal evolves, I’m working to provide exemptions or reimbursements for business consumers in our critical and vulnerable local industries.
Large Employers: Major changes are being considered for some larger firms in rural communities. Mills in Toledo, Willamina, and Tillamook are our largest private employers. But they operate on thin margins. New costs or regulations could cause those facilities to close or shift production out-of-state.
Because climate change is a global problem, a company moving out of Oregon only to pollute heavily in another state doesn’t achieve lower emissions. But more important, the loss of those employers in small communities would be devastating.
We are now negotiating allowances when a company uses the most eco-friendly technology available. Some state money will also be available to help companies implement cutting edge changes. Under the amendment, companies would not be penalized if no new technology exists.
I’m advocating to ensure that the definitions of best-available technology are transparent. I’m also fighting to make sure that our mills have the resources they need to make the transition to these cleaner technologies.
How does the money get spent? The amended bill specifically calls out rural communities, low-income communities and federally recognized tribes as beneficiaries of a prescribed percentage of spending from the program. The amendment also prioritizes specific investments in wildfire prevention and job training.
Too often in policy discussions, “rural” is interpreted as Eastern Oregon and “urban” as the I-5 corridor. I’ve asked that “coastal” be specifically detailed in the bill to ensure our coast range and oceanside communities benefit.
The Oregon Transportation Commission will administer a competitive grant program, which would be distributed 50-50 between state and local projects. And the Commission is required to consider geographic equity of investments, as well as the balance between greenhouse gas reduction and climate adaptation programs.
I have been advocating for investments in regional transportation focused on our major arterials that may be vulnerable to climate-caused landslides.
House Bill 2020 continues to evolve. As the bill moves forward, the time sensitive question is how we can make it a better bill.
My email inbox is brimming with letters, for and against Cap and Invest. We all share a commitment to our environment and our children’s future. We also share a concern for daily costs. And here in Salem, we want to get it right.
Please take the time to email me with specific suggestions and a perspective from your own experiences and values.
Benny in the House!
We get lots of visitors and advocates in our Salem office during session. But there were two things unusual about one of our guests on OSU day last week. The first was that they were our official state animal. And the second was that they didn’t say anything! But as an old beaver myself, and one of two former student body presidents now serving, I’m always happy to see Benny in Salem.
National Popular Vote
Should the candidate with the most votes be elected president? Or should we continue to rely on the Electoral College process?
Supporters of the Electoral College argue that it requires candidates to appeal to voters outside large cities and increases the political influence of small states. Opponents argue that it can result in a person becoming president even though an opponent got more votes – which occurred in two of the last five presidential elections. It also causes candidates to focus disproportionately in a few “swing states”.
Eliminating the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment. But a procedural proposal is working its way across the nation and will soon be voted on again in the Oregon legislature. SB 870 would require Oregon EC electors to cast their votes for the candidate winning the national popular vote (even if a different candidate wins the Oregon election). This commitment would take affect when enough states join the “compact” to total the 270 votes necessary to confirm election in the Electoral College.
The National Popular Vote proposal was approved by the Oregon House in previous years but failed to move in the Senate. However, SB 870 passed the Senate last week and will soon be voted on in the House. I have sponsored this legislation the last two biennia and believe every vote should count equally in the selection of our US President.
Coastal Art in the Capitol
We continue to present coastal art and artists in the state Capitol. This month we are pleased to exhibit photography by Norm Eder that showcases iconic Pacific City images. We have tidepooling, surfing, kiteflying, and people strolling the beach at sunset hand-in-hand.
While the pace of legislative session is quickening, we’re always happy to hear from you. Please feel free to reach out if I can ever be of service.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10
address: 900 Court St NE, H-471, Salem, OR, 97301