Having been involved with the Oregon carbon conversation for a number of years, attending all of the workgroups during the 2017 interim and as a member of the House Energy and Environment Committee during the 2017 and 2018 Legislative Session, I believe we all can agree that there are changing climate conditions across our landscape.
On the global scale, Oregon contributes less than one-sixth of one percent of emissions, and so the question is, what do Oregonians do to further reduce their carbon emissions and at what cost to them? Oregonians and their businesses and industries are already making investments on their own to reduce emissions, and they do so within their free market policies. Prior Legislation has been passed, such as the Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) that continues to lower emissions as well. So, what’s next?
I continue to have the privilege, as the co-vice chair of the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, to work with colleagues on answering these questions, and I can tell you that HB 2020 is not the answer. Fellow committee co-vice chair Bentz, chairs Power and Dembrow and I worked on language for a carbon reduction bill for many months prior to Christmas of 2018. We discussed language to protect children and families, their communities and the businesses that support them. We discussed the gargantuan economic impacts to our working families across the state, and how we might mitigate those impacts. Unfortunately, I feel this work was in vain and powers above the co-chairs and co-vice chairs decided to eliminate these mitigating concepts out of HB 2020.
Concerns plague HB 2020, from farm to families to transportation. One example is the estimated 15 cents a gallon gas tax increase. Although the bill does not call it out as a tax, it is estimated to generate over $330 million a year. Although constitutionally mandated to be used on roads and bridges, reduce congestion and other transportation related projects, HB 2020 has language that is ambiguous at best and creates a new fund for these dollars where monies could flow to projects and programs outside of roads, bridges and congestion relief.
Let us all be very clear: Oregonians emit less than one-sixth of one percent (0.14 percent) of carbon. When the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Director Richard Whitman was asked by me in committee what impact on global carbon would occur if Oregon were to reduce its emissions to zero, he responded, "Representative Brock Smith you are correct. That Oregon's portion of global carbon emissions is, I'll use the word minuscule." When Dr. Philip Mote, director, Oregon Climate Services and Oregon Climate Change Research Institute was asked by me what the impact would be on the global climate if Oregon were to reduce their emissions to zero, he responded the impact would be, “Imperceptible.”
Proponents of this massive tax know the impacts are "imperceptible" and "minuscule," so they have begun to shift their argument for this multi-billion dollar increase on Oregonians to a “moral and ethical” narrative. I believe we have a moral and ethical obligation to keep our children and working families warm, fed and employed, with investments in our children’s education, so they may create their own future innovative green energy jobs.
HB 2020 will devastate Oregon families, their communities and the businesses that support them.
- Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, represents District 1 in the Oregon House of Representatives, which covers all of Curry County and parts of Coos, Douglas and Josephine counties