ONTARIO — House Bill 2020, the carbon reduction bill currently in Oregon Legislature, was on the minds of Malheur County residents Friday and Gov. Kate Brown, who was visiting Ontario, assured them she would not sign the bill as introduced.
Brown, who spent the morning in Ontario at private and public meetings spoke at a public session at the Clarion Inn on Friday morning, hosted by the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce, and then later met with the Eastern Oregon Border Board at noon at Jolts & Juice.
She then moved on to Baker County where she was going to tour the Ash Grove Cement plant near Durkee, where there are also concerns about a loss of jobs under House Bill 2020 because current technology would not allow the plant to meet the proposed carbon emission standards, according to company officials.
Calling the bill as a work in progress, Brown defended the need for the bill to cut greenhouse gases, citing things she sees as signs of climate change including that 90 percent of the state had been in drought and that the state has experienced some of the worst fire seasons in recent years.
However, Brown said her goal is to not do any harm to the economy, and not exacerbate the challenges that already exist.
“Every Job in Eastern Oregon matters,” she said.
Ralph Poole, a member of the Border Board and a co-owner of Campo & Poole Distributing, said his company has been working for several years to help reduce carbon emissions and is the only biodiesel blending facility this side of Portland and works with the Department of Environmental Quality to meet Oregon’s existing low carbon fuel standards.
But House Bill 2020 will add on more costs, Poole said.
“It’s going to cause businesses to close,” he said, noting some fuel station owners have already talked about moving to Idaho.
The law, if passed, would actually be adding to the emissions problems, Poole said, because the higher prices caused by cap and trade will incentivise people to buy their fuel in Idaho which does have a carbon reduction program, with none proposed.
“We don’t have the ability to have transit,” Poole said, drawing a distinction between Eastern Oregon and the Portland area, or bicycling from Brogan to Vale.
He said the carbon reduction bill was more for western Oregon than eastern Oregon and the bill would undo some of the things the Border Board is doing to make Malheur County more competitive with Idaho.
The hope is to incentivise people to stay in Oregon, but people should find a way to cut down pollution, Poole said.
Local farmer Bruce Cruickshank said there no solutions for heavy trucks getting crops to market as electric vehicles would not to the job.
One provision of House Bill 2020 is to put a cap on greenhouse emissions and create a market-based mechanism for entities to show compliance with the program, known as cap and trade.
The cap is the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions allowed from burning or use of fossil fuel such as gasoline, diesel or natural gas.
The trade side comes when the cap is exceeded and credits are needed to be in place to cover the obligation or debt created by going over the cap.
What these credits will cost is unknown, but estimates start at 16 cents a gallon more for fuel and possibly up to $3 per gallon over the next 20 to 25 years.
Possible solutions, Brown said, could include to carve out exemptions for Eastern Oregon or some industries from some provisions of the bill, implement some of the provisions of the bill incrementally or provide state assistance to businesses impacted negatively by the bill.