On March 23rd over 300 activists rallied on the steps of the Capitol in support of the Clean Energy and Jobs Bill, SB 557. Senator Michael Dembrow, chair of the Senate’s Natural Resources and Environment Committee spoke to the gathered activists and encouraged us to let our legislators know that we care deeply about the need to put a price on carbon pollution. He said that leadership on the climate in Oregon is more important than ever as climate deniers have taken on key roles throughout the Executive Branch and Congress too is controlled by climate deniers.
In the morning, most of these activists attended a training session led by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the Oregon Conservation Network, OCN. Much of the morning was focused on the Clean Energy and Jobs Bill, SB 557. This bill will address three needs:
- Cap: the Environmental Quality Commission will adopt limits for emissions of greenhouse gases to achieve a 75% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. We seek to strengthen the current bill by adding that new standards must be based on the best available science.
- Price: major polluters must pay for the greenhouse gases they emit by purchasing tradable permits or “allowances,” where one allowance permits emission of one ton of CO2 or equivalent. Auctions of these allowances are managed to ensure that emissions decline as necessary to meet reduction goals.
- Justice: Funds, estimated to start off at $700 million annually, are to be spent in support of the bill’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote resilience and adaptation to climate change. Significant amounts are to be directed towards projects for disadvantaged communities and economically distressed areas.
In the afternoon, small group meetings were held between constituents and their Representative and Senator to urge them to support the Clean Energy and Jobs Bill. OLCV had scheduled meetings with 28 of 30 Senators and 59 of 60 Representatives. The message was loud and clear: we need to put a price on climate pollution now!
During the morning session we also reviewed other OCN priorities such as saving the Elliott State Forest, SB 847, and retiring Oregon’s dirtiest diesel, SB 1008.
The Elliott State Forest is an 83,000-acre ecological treasure, home to precious old growth, marbled murrelets and Coho salmon. Recently the State Land Board has explored selling these public lands. On May 9 a public meeting will be held to give direction to the future of this proposed sale. Governor Brown is developing a plan that would keep the forest in public and tribal ownership.
The diesel bill, SB 847, would dramatically reduce toxic diesel pollution. Diesel takes a heavy toll on the health of Oregonians each year. In some of our neighborhoods pollution levels exceed health benchmarks by 20x or more.
What can I do? Most importantly, write, call or send a personal email to your State Representative and Senator. If you know that they support SB 557, thank them. If you are unsure, urge them to support 557. Provide several reasons and why that is important to you. We have an opportunity to show the rest of this country what must be done. Let’s keep the pressure on as the time to act is now
Rand Schenck and Rick Brown
Co-Leads, Capping Carbon (and all GHGs) Campaign