SALEM — Oregon Senate Republicans issued a thinly veiled threat Tuesday to block a vote on what would become the nation’s second economywide cap and trade program.
Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., said in a statement that Republicans are “prepared to take action to stop” Democrats’ sweeping climate plan, which passed the House on Monday after nearly six hours of debate.
The statement is reminiscent of threats made just before a Republican walkout over a proposed tax on business back in May. Senate Republicans, who are in the minority, brought all business to a grinding halt for nearly a week by refusing to show up to vote on a school funding tax package. At the time, Baertschiger said a walkout was the only tool conservatives had to make their voices heard.
When asked if conservatives were pursuing a second walkout to protest cap and trade, a Senate Republican spokeswoman said lawmakers “are discussing all options.”
Under a cap-and-trade program, the state would put an overall limit on greenhouse gas emissions and auction off pollution “allowances” for each ton of carbon industries plan to emit. Democrats have presented the proposal as an efficient way to lower emissions while investing in low-income and rural communities’ ability to adapt to climate change.
Conservatives have railed against cap and trade for months, saying it would hurt business and do little to stem the tide of climate change.
“The bill makes the urban-rural divide stronger than ever because the biggest polluters are in Oregon’s large cities,” said Baertschiger in a statement. “It is fundamentally inequitable to put the responsibility of cleaning up their pollution on the backs of rural Oregonians.”
A second walkout would carry higher stakes. Republicans ended their first walkout after Gov. Kate Brown agreed to table two controversial bills on gun control and vaccination requirements.
Shortly after those negotiations, Brown told reporters she didn’t anticipate that Republicans “will leave” again for the remainder of the legislative session. When asked if a second walkout would mean the revival of those two bills, she didn’t specify.
“I will just say there are consequences,” she said.