Would it make you edgy if Oregon government was going to launch a big, new program worth millions and keep secret how well it works?
If so, read on.
This is about the new Oregon greenhouse gas bill. The program would be set up like this: Bigger greenhouse gas emitters would have to get credits for what they emit. There would be an overall cap on how much will be emitted and that cap tightens over time. The state will sell the credits in auctions. The state will turn around and use the revenue raised to do all sorts of green initiatives. Nobody knows for sure what kind of money it will be, but it’s safe to say it will be millions and millions.
Oregonians will be able to know what the revenue is spent on — it would seem. But according to the bill, they won’t know where the money comes from and how much individual bidders are paying for credits. The language of the bill prohibits disclosure of information about participation in the auctions including bid activity and auction results.
Now you might be thinking why should I care what a company bids and what happens in these state auctions?
Well there are a couple of reasons. One is, indirectly, it is your money that will be paying to buy these credits. Do you buy gasoline? Do you use energy? Those are just some examples of the products you buy that may cost more because the companies that sell it have to buy these credits. Don’t you want to know how your money is being spent on a government program?
And if that is not good enough for you, remember the BETC. That was the state of Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit program. It was a very well-intentioned green program going to do all sorts of good things for the state. Businesses manipulated the program and pocketed millions that they should never have received. And that was in a program that allowed enterprising reporters access to the critical records. Just imagine what some business will be able to do when the law forbids the public from having access to important information.
Most businesses likely won’t try to manipulate any new program. But they will be looking for loopholes and ways to win advantage. It could be in way Oregonians don’t like. And with the way the law is written, Oregonians may never know.