Energy

Dems Trying To Jam Cap-And-Trade Down Oregonians’ Throats

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Oregon lawmakers want to join the ranks of California via pushing a pair of bills to impose a cap-and-trade system and clamp down on state, greenhouse gas emissions.

State Senate and House lawmakers advanced their respective versions of the cap-and-trade bills Thursday. The Democratic-sponsored bills were passed out of committee along party lines.

However, both bills have an uncertain future. The Democratic Gov. Kate Brown-backed bills would force roughly 100 facilities to pay for the greenhouse gases they emit, which would be ratcheted down over time. The bills aim to reduce emissions 80 percent (below 1990 levels) by 2050.

A  given company’s payment would depend on their industry. The bills have different emissions fees for transportation, utilities and industry. Cap-and-trade could raise (or cost, depending on who you ask) $700 million a year, which would be spent on various programs.

State Senate and House versions of cap-and-trade legislation have some differences, but Democrats and environmental activists support both. Industry has a more skeptical approached it more skeptical — some are outright opposed.

“If action gets kicked down the road to next year’s legislature, the blame will go to the irresponsible and unconstructive polluter resistance,” Western Energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council legal director Noah Long wrote.

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Pacific Gas & Electric and PacifiCorp oppose the bills, arguing their customers already pay for green energy and energy-efficiency investments mandated under state law.

PG&E projects a 6.6 percent increase in retail residential electricity rates by 2021 and a 27 percent rate increase by 2030. The utility predicts business and industrial electricity rate increases would be larger.

“The utility business is already under a carbon policy,” PacifiCorp spokesman Scott Bolton told The Oregonian.

“We don’t understand why less than two years after the passage of that our customers will be faced with even higher cost pressures,” Bolton said. “We don’t want to penalize customers twice for the same decarbonization.”

The Oregon bills would allow the state to link its cap-and-trade system to California’s (as well as Canadian-operated systems). Environmentalists argue cap-and-trade revenues can be used to fuel green-energy development and offset higher electricity bills.

“The votes this past week marks continued momentum for sorely needed leadership,” NRDC’s Long wrote. “If the bills pass, it will be because elected leaders in the state rise above the clamor of polluter lobbyists and provide the leadership on climate action that the public demands.”

Cap-and-trade opponents say gasoline prices could raise 16 cents per gallon by 2021 — just from the minimum price companies will have to pay for emissions permits. In all, the plan could cost the average Oregonian up to $150 a month.

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