New office, joint committee to tackle Oregon's failed carbon reduction bill

The dome of the Oregon state Capitol as seen Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo: Steve Benham/KATU.com)

Two bills that supporters said would have helped reduce the state’s carbon emissions while investing in green jobs failed to pass during this year’s short legislation session at the Capitol in Salem.

But Democrats aim to continue to work to get a bill ready for next year’s session.

To facilitate the process, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, both Democrats, announced Friday they were forming a Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction as well as a new Carbon Policy Office that will work to hammer out a bill ready for 2019.

This year’s bills, Senate Bill 1507 and House Bill 4001, would have set a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions that would have been lowered over time. The bills would also have required the state’s biggest emitters to purchase allowances at state-run auctions.

While Democrats pushed for the passage of what they billed as the Clean Energy Jobs bill this year, Republicans pushed back hard, saying the short session was no place to debate such complex bills.

Even before the session started, Courtney, a supporter of the program, agreed.

But Courtney said Saturday that pushing for passage of the program will be a priority during next year’s longer session.

The temporary Carbon Policy Office comes at a price tag of just over $1.4 million. The request was added to a budget reconciliation bill that the Joint Committee on Ways and Means passed Friday. Both House and Senate chambers passed it Saturday.

Of that money, $650,000 will be used to fund studies that will look at how a cap-and-invest program will impact Oregon, specifically on its economy and jobs.

The office will be headed up by Gov. Kate Brown’s policy adviser, who will work with a climate policy manager, a project manager and a support staffer.

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