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Oregon coalition revives effort to cap greenhouse gas emissions

The move follows a failed attempt to pass a cap-and-trade bill in the state legislature.

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Five months after the Oregon legislature failed to pass a cap-and-trade bill, a coalition of environmental advocates has filed three petitions regulating carbon emissions for the 2020 ballot.

One proposed measure would require the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50%  below 1990 levels by 2035 and to 100% “carbon free” by 2050.

The second and third measures would require all electricity produced in the state to be generated from renewable energy by 2045.

A long history

The petitions follow a dramatic showdown in the state capital last summer over House Bill 2020, a carbon emissions cap- and-trade scheme.

Oregon’s Republican senators fled the state to prevent a vote on the bill, which aimed to reduce emissions by at least 45% below 1990 emissions levels by 2035 and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. 

The GOP representatives returned to the capitol only after the Democratic leadership decided to kill the bill, saying they didn’t have enough votes to pass the legislation.

The cap-and-trade proposal – years in the making – attracted fierce opposition from the trucking industry due to concerns that the legislation unfairly targeted the transport sector and would force many small carriers out of business.

Another try

The coalition backing the new ballot petitions, Renew Oregon, is hoping the measures will put pressure on legislators when they convene in February 2020. Democratic leaders have said they will try once again to pass a carbon cap.

“Our priority will continue to be the cap-and-invest bill,” Brad Reed, a spokesman for Renew Oregon, told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “We will put all of our energy to that. But we cannot afford for the state and for the people to not have bold climate action next year.”

Jana Jarvis, executive director of the Oregon Trucking Association, was not immediately available for comment.

Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to [email protected]