After failing to pass a cap-and-trade bill the last two years, the proponents of the bill have said they do not have plans to pursue the measure during the 2021 Oregon legislative session, something that drew cautious optimism from Lake County Commissioner Mark Albertson, who has been one of the forceful voices against the proposed bills.
The proposed cap-and-trade bill would have put a cap on the amount of carbon that could be emitted by vehicles, businesses and other entities in Oregon. The amount of carbon that could be released would decrease each year. Entities would have been able to purchase credits from places that did not emit that much carbon, at ever-increasing prices. Part of the proposal was to increase the gas tax each year.
Both times that cap-and-trade was introduced by the Democratic party in the Oregon Legislature, once in 2019 and once more during the short session in early 2020, the Republican minority walked out, grinding all work to a halt at the State Capitol. Both times the session ended and the cap-and-trade bill was not put to a vote.
Shortly after the failure in 2020, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed Executive Order 20-04, which is facing several lawsuits in Oregon courts. The bill would accomplish many of the goals that the Democrats set out in both of their bills, though it lacks any of the sharing of potential revenue for counties.
Albertson, who has long been a vocal critic of both bills and is a major supporter of Timber Unity — which started in 2019 and is opposed to the cap-and-trade bill — said that while he would like to believe that the Democrats will not try to pursue a cap-and-trade bill, he finds it hard to believe that they will keep their word on an issue that they have talked about for years.
One of the major concerns voiced by leaders in rural counties was that there was to be no help for people living in the rural part of the state, and that it would increase taxes, with none of the benefits.
Albertson pointed out that Lake County is part of a study to determine if the County is carbon neutral or carbon positive. A similar study several years ago found that Lake County was around 90% carbon neutral. The new study should be released in September 2021, and many area leaders hope that it will show that Lake County is either carbon neutral or carbon positive.
“The democrats did not have a plan for cap-and-trade and what it would consist of. There was nothing in writing about carbon credits,” said Albertson.
One sore point was managing of forestland; the proposed bill would have made cutting timber much more expensive compared to just letting it grow on private forestlands. This is what led many Republican leaders to object, as it would not only hurt the remaining sawmills, but damage forest health. In a previous interview, Albertson stated that more carbon is captured by young trees that are planted after a forest is cut, than by mature trees left to stand. Under the cap-and-trade proposal it would be cheaper and more cost effective for private landowners to leave trees standing.
Another objection Albertson had to the proposed bill is that it would require vehicles, especially vehicles used in farming and ranching, with a model year older than 1997 would no longer be used. He said that many farms and ranches have older vehicles in their operations, and that oftentimes they might want to replace them with newer models, they just do not have the funds. He is against the government regulating the age of equipment that farmers and ranchers can use in their operations.
“I do not think there is a person who does not want a clean environment in the County,” said Albertson.
Even if the Democrats change their mind, depending on how the lawsuits go against Brown’s executive order, and try to reintroduce a cap-and-trade bill, Albertson wants them to listen to everyone, and not have deaf ears to the rural community. He said that the word needs to get out about what rural counties are doing in reducing their carbon footprint, but right now that is being ignored in Salem.