We might be considered old-fashioned, but before the Legislature passes a climate change bill, it should be clear which businesses will have to pay up and which get a pass.
The major climate change bill scheduled for the February session doesn’t do that.
It doesn’t matter if you believe climate change is happening or not. It doesn’t matter if you believe this bill will affect the climate or not. The bill is not ready.
The idea behind the “cap and invest” bill is to tax carbon, and then the Legislature will turn around and spend the money. That’s a way to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, counter climate change and its effects and transition Oregon to a cleaner, healthier and more robust economy,” the bill’s authors say.
How much will that jack up the price of filling a gas tank? What will it do to the cost of health care or the price of groceries? Those questions are difficult to answer, but it’s likely going to raise prices for a lot of things.
But there is also the fundamental question of whom the bill affects. So-called emissions-intensive, trade-exposed businesses are going to get a pass. They aren’t going to get a complete pass, but they get easier rules. Those businesses get a pass because they emit a lot of carbon and might decide to pick up and leave Oregon because of the new rules. They will take jobs with them, and then they might just relocate to another state or country and emit the carbon there.
The bill has a Senate and a House version, but neither makes clear what specific businesses get a pass. The House version does not specify what types of industries will get a pass and leaves it up to the Environmental Quality Commission and some unnamed third-party analyst. The Senate version does outline the general industries in broad terms. Here’s a partial list — cement manufacturing, frozen fruit, juice and vegetable manufacturing, iron and steel mills, some plastics manufacturing, glass container manufacturing and pulp and paper mills get a pass — except newsprint.
But legislators, businesses and the general public should be able to easily know which businesses get a pass. The bill also doesn’t even spell out exactly how much of a pass these will get. Oregonians and surely legislators should know what kind of tax break the state is giving away and to whom.
Almost every bill the Legislature passes has rules or policies that may be finalized later. This bill leaves too many basic questions unanswered. The bill is not ready for this short session.