Supporters of Oregon’s cap and trade bill say their plan isn’t dead yet – even though lawmakers failed to pass it this session.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, have a plan to revive the controversial bill, which aims to reduce the state's contributions to climate change.
The idea was to set a cap on the amount of carbon pollution that can be emitted within the state and to create a market for trading carbon credits. Supporters say it's the best way for the state to catch up on the carbon reduction goals it has fallen behind on, but opponents argue it will raise the price of food and energy without making a dent in global climate change.
The bill died this session, but Kotek and Courtney are laying the groundwork to help lawmakers pass something similar next year. They’re setting up a new joint committee on carbon reduction and devoting $1.4 million to a new carbon policy office.
Kotek says the money will pay for studies on the economic impacts of cap and trade and ways to sequester carbon on Oregon land.
"I think this is a clear commitment from legislative leadership that we will finish the job," Kotek said.
"We want to get it right ... and if we need a little bit more time for the details, let's take it and make sure we have a program ready to roll in 2019."
Brad Reed of the environmental group Renew Oregon says lawmakers still have time to pass a new version of cap and trade next year without delaying the proposed start date of 2021.
"We’re disappointed they couldn’t get it done this year – especially since they wrapped up early and everyone said they didn’t have enough time," he said. "The big victory is our timeline hasn't been thrown off."
Scott Bruun, a spokesman for opponents of the bill with Priority Oregon, said his group is pleased the cap and trade bill didn't pass because it would allow bureaucrats to set a price for carbon emissions that would ultimately come out of all Oregonians' pockets.
If next year's bill still looks like the existing cap and trade program in California, Bruun said, his group will continue to fight it.
"We believe our voice was heard loud and clear," he said. "It's fair to say we will be back next session as strong if not stronger than we were this session."