SALEM (AP) — Hundreds of protesters converged Monday on the Oregon Capitol to push lawmakers to adopt legislation that would place a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and impose fees on entities that exceed maximum levels.
With the Trump administration having abandoned the Paris climate agreement, several states have emphasized their own efforts to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. In November, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington state attended global climate change talks in Bonn, Germany.
Now, a bill in the Oregon Senate and a similar one in the House aim to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the state to levels that are at least 80 percent below 1990 levels. Companies and facilities emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year would be required to buy "allowances" every year to cover each ton of their emissions.
The two so-called clean-energy jobs bills, also known as cap and trade, are sponsored by 31 lawmakers, and each contain more than 30 pages. Some lawmakers have said this year's 35-days legislative session is too short to deal with such a complicated issue.
But it took center stage Monday as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Capitol in sunny, chilly weather, carrying signs including ones that said "climate justice." One inflatable sign asked Senate President Peter Courtney to "be a climate hero." The protesters then flocked to offices of legislators, spilling out the doors and into narrow hallways, before attending two committee hearings on the bills.
"There are about 400 to 500 people here today," marveled House Speaker Tina Kotek, one of the bills' sponsors. "I think that shows the people outside the building really want us to make it a priority for the session."
Courtney said before the Legislature convened on Feb. 5 that while he believes there must be laws to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, he expressed doubt that it could be finalized in the short session.
"Just the exemption area is complicated," he said, adding that he didn't want Oregon to copy another state.
Opponents have lined up against the measures, including Oregon Business & Industry.
"Oregon needs to identify the least cost way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, rather than create a disincentive for Oregon business to remain in the state and for others to locate here," said Scott Parrish of Oregon Business & Industry, which said it represents 1,600 businesses.
The Craft Brew Alliance, headquartered in Portland and with more than a half-dozen breweries, said global warming has caused drought, wildfires, extreme weather, and rising acid levels in oceans.
"We are not on pace to meet our state's carbon reduction goals through voluntary action so more must be done and the 2018 session is the time," said Craft Brew Alliance's Julia Person in written testimony.