Lawmakers on the Joint Carbon Reduction Committee spent the last two weeks on the road listening to comments from Oregonians on the cap-and-trade proposal introduced in HB 2020. They visited Springfield, Medford, The Dalles and Bend and took remote testimony from Baker City and Newport. Thousands of Oregonians from all walks of life testified against the legislation.

Here’s what stood out to us:

  1. Oregonians understand they’ll be the ones footing the bill for cap-and-trade. An overwhelming number of Oregonians shared their concerns about the impact of HB 2020 on their family budgets. Many specifically highlighted the 16 cents-per-gallon increase to the cost of gasoline and diesel anticipated under the program, while others stressed the unaffordability of double-digit natural gas rate hikes. It’s very clear that if HB 2020 is adopted, many Oregon families will be forced to make difficult decisions about their family budget.
  1. Cap-and-trade will hurt Oregon farmers and ranchers. Supporters of HB 2020 like to suggest that Oregon’s agriculture sector would be exempt from cap-and-trade, but that assertion is disingenuous at best. Almost every aspect of farming and ranching operations would be hit with secondary impacts under the program. We heard from dozens of farmers who worried that the increased costs associated with cap-and-trade would be enough to destroy their already slim margins. With many family farmers competing in regional and global markets, any significant increase in the cost of production can be a huge threat.
  1. Rural Oregonians value and want to protect blue-collar jobs. In Springfield and Medford in particular, we heard from countless mill workers, manufacturers, loggers and truck drivers concerned about what cap-and-trade would do to their industries. Many of these Oregonians have had a front row seat to the decline of the timber industry over the last few decades and fear cap-and-trade could lead to similar job losses. They also understand that if and when manufacturing jobs are lost, they’ll likely just be relocated to states or countries will less stringent environmental regulations. Ironically, they said, this could end up increasing emissions rather than decreasing them.
  1. State bureaucrats have not earned the public’s trust. Many testifiers raised concerns with HB 2020’s power giveaway to government bureaucrats. Under the current draft of the bill, the cap-and-trade program would be overseen by a climate czar appointed by the Governor as the head of the new “Carbon Policy Office.” This new office would have tremendous power over entire sectors of Oregon’s economy and would be able to make policy decisions that could increase taxes and utility rates without legislative approval or a vote by Oregonians.
  1. Oregonians believe costs of cap and trade outweigh potential benefits. Dozens of witnesses quoted an Oregon State University climate scientist who recently testified about effects of an Oregon cap-and-trade program on global climate change. The scientist told lawmakers that an Oregon cap-and-trade program would have an “imperceptible” impact on the effects of climate change given the state’s already minuscule share of global climate emissions. Many Oregonians had a hard time rationalizing the idea they would be forced to pay higher prices (as much as $1,500 according to some estimates) for a program that would do virtually nothing to improve our environment.

While the cap and trade road show has concluded, there is still time to submit your comments if you have not had a chance to participate. If you would like to make sure your voice is heard, please send an email with your testimony to jccr.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov before the end of this week.