Hey, Oregon Senators: You Can’t Run Away from Climate Change

, director, California & Western States | June 21, 2019, 1:02 pm EDT
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This post is a part of a series on Climate Change & Oregon

This week Oregon stands on the cusp of approving historic cap-and-invest legislation, HB 2020, that experts have said will help grow the Oregon economy. After three years of legislative consideration, numerous studies, hearings, public meetings, and debate, the Oregon House approved the legislation decisively (36-22) on June 18th, and the bill moved to the Senate Floor, where a vote was expected on June 20th.

But outnumbered bill opponents, who in the House had tried to throw up every possible procedural roadblock to forestall a vote, resorted in the Senate to a highly unusual tactic – they didn’t come to work. That’s right: Oregon’s elected Senate representatives who oppose climate action didn’t show up on the Senate Floor this morning, thus depriving the body of a quorum and making a vote procedurally impossible. There are press reports that several  have scurried out of state to make it harder to compel them to return to do their jobs.

What on Earth are these Senators thinking?

The opponents of HB 2020 believe the bill will result in economic hardship for their constituents, but the performance of existing carbon pricing programs just doesn’t support that conclusion. The bill’s opponents know that neighboring California, with a much larger and more complex economy, enacted a similar program over a decade ago and the state’s still-booming economy has grown from the 8th to the 5th largest on the planet. Canadian provinces that have put a price on carbon are also thriving.

Climate change is already costing Oregon plenty

The great irony is that while HB 2020 won’t cause economic hardship, climate change already is. Oregon is already experiencing costly impacts that are only getting worse the longer governments shirk their responsibility and don’t take action. Scientists in support of this legislation warn that Oregon oyster nurseries and fisheries are facing serious risks from ocean acidification while rural and urban communities are already portending with increasing heat, droughts, floods, and wildfires. These impacts will continue to put economies and lives at risk.

Much of the debate in the Oregon House centered on the problems of rural Oregon. But climate change is impartial and nonpartisan: every corner of the state will be impacted. In particular, rural areas will be hard hit by the vulnerability of natural systems like forests and waterways to climate impacts.

Rather than watching their representatives duck out of their responsibilities in a move of calculated political theater, rural Oregonians need actual help for farms and forests to prepare for and manage climate change. If enacted, Oregon’s climate bill would create funds to directly help these communities adapt.

Don’t run away, do what is right

Climate change is impervious to partisan politics, belief systems, rhetoric, and spin. No one can or will escape climate impacts. Foes say that Oregon’s emissions reductions will not make a difference because the state is too small, but size hasn’t prevented over a hundred countries with economies smaller than Oregon’s, including Portugal, Greece, and New Zealand, from pledging to reduce their emissions under the Paris Accord. Why did they do this? Because it’s the right thing to do for a globally shared problem.

Yet these state Senators—at best misguided, at worst abetting a fossil fuel industry hanging on to every misdirection it can muster—are fleeing their constitutionally-mandated work. They need to stop running and start looking at the facts.

Oregon has an awful lot at stake. The entire nation—and the world—is watching. This small group of state Senators who choose not to do the jobs they were elected to do are betraying Oregon’s workers, families, and children.

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  • Aaron Shown

    This bill is about picking favorites. It exempts two large power companies from fees for the first 9 years. Much of the power from these companies come from fossil fuels. In fact Pacific Power gets 61% of their electricity from coal and they don’t pay a dime for nine years. If they want to tax carbon, tax all carbon.

    Electric vehicles in many parts of Oregon will be 61% coal powered and they will not pay for their massive emissions.

  • Lori Davis

    Run away wimps…how degrading these Republicans are to Oregon working people….hiding out with their Corporate Sponsors . I have been an Oregonian all my life, and this is the most deceitful group of Trump loving Republicans I have ever seen… fortunately for Oregon, they are the minority.

  • Lacy Jay

    anyone posting bullshit like this actually take the time to research and see that the reason those senators walked out is to shut kate brown and her tyrannical leadership down??? shes trying to completely occupy oregon, acting like our “ruler”.

    this is about the 11 republicans standing up for the 4.1 million oregonians that kate brown and her democratic senators are trying to take the voice away from.

    its about bringing this to a VOTE. not forcing it down our throats.

    • True- “The Republicans are not standing against climate change, they’re standing against democracy,” Brown told a group of protesters outside the Capitol. Except that the bill was entered under the state’s ‘Emergency Clause’ so that the voters couldn’t vote on it! So who is standing against democracy, no matter what side you stand on! Brown is on the wrong side of democracy!

  • brad192783

    No, carbon credits are not the answer and yes just because Republicans are out voted doesn’t mean they are wrong to deny a quorum by leaving. I support their actions because I know cap and trade is purely political and the so called scientists in support of it are not the only opinion available. Its just cherry picking on the part of the Democratically controlled legislature to choose the scientists they want, and then claim “science ” proves their actions to destroy livelihoods is justified. Ultimately it results in government controlled livelihoods and lives because the poor will have no voice. Stop playing God by creating rules and fees that push people into your oblique and hidden agenda.